Monday, September 25, 2006

The Mystery of Divine Intervention

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Have you ever wondered about the mysteries of divine intervention? Can you think of a series of events in your life where you had "near misses?" Ever why mysterious things happen?

Here are eight life changing events that could have turned out differently for me:

Incident #1: As a young boy of 9 or 10, we had an above-ground swimming pool with a slide in our backyard. One day, a friend challenged me to slide down on my stomach with my hands clasped behind my back. Not wanting to be "chicken," I said, "WATCH ME!" For some reason, the slide was more slippery than usual that day and I ended up slamming my head at the bottom of the pool, momentarily disorienting me. I came up gasping for air, but was otherwise unhurt. This act of foolishness could have resulted in a broken neck, either killing or paralyzing me. Divine intervention?

Incident #2: One winter night while in college, I had too many drinks and attempted to drive back to the dorms. While getting off a ramp exit, the car spun on black ice and came to a stop after two full revolutions without hitting the rail guards. Incredibly, not only did the car remain perfectly centered throughout, but it was also aligned in the right direction after it stopped spinning! Stunned, I rolled the windows down to get some fresh air, slapped my face as hard as I could and made it to the dorms without further incident. Divine intervention?

Incident #3: One Saturday afternoon, I was careening downtown on 8th Avenue (New York City) on my bike, in a big hurry to get home. A speeding car suddenly shot out from an adjacent street, probably in an attempt to beat the changing traffic light. It was partially hidden by parked cars on that street so I hadn't seen it until the very last second when I instinctively squeezed the brake handles, saving me. Divine intervention?

Incident #4: About to step off the curb on the Upper East Side (New York City), a cab narrowly missed me by a hair. It was so close that I felt the whoosh of the speeding cab pass by. Had I stepped off the curb seconds earlier, the cab would have hit me, possibly killing or at least critically injuring me. Divine intervention?

Incident #5: As a young boy, my job was to mow the lawn. One day, I was pouring gasoline into the lawnmower when I suddenly stopped, jerking the can of gasoline upright, causing gas to slosh up to my eyes. Dropping the can, I ran up to the house screaming in pain, where my mother immediately shoved my head under running water in the kitchen sink. The doctor told her if she hadn't done that, I would have gone blind or in the very least suffered severe eye injury. After applying antibiotics for a few weeks, I was good as new. Divine intervention?

Incident #6: Once again, I was riding my bike in New York City. This time I was going uptown. Seeing that no one was coming my way, I crossed Fifth Avenue when a cab appeared out of nowhere and actually hit me. The collision caused me to fly off my bike, roll on top of the hood and then fall to the pavement. Like Superman, I immediately got up, brushed off my clothes, readjusted my glasses and went on my way but not before reassuring the cab driver that I was okay, if not terribly embarrassed in front of a gathering crowd of gawkers on the sidewalk. Divine intervention?

Incident #7: This one involved flying. I had gone to visit my parents in for the Christmas holidays and rented a small plane for the 400 mile flight from Michigan to upstate New York, taking me across Canada. I arrived tired, but elated.

After enjoying the holidays, it was time to go back to Michigan but bad weather forced me to delay my departure for three or four days. A break in the weather finally came and it was time to leave. Four hours later, I landed in Buffalo, New York to refuel and check the weather. The weather reports gave me no inkling of what was to come that night. So I launched into the sunset, fat, happy and full of fuel.

All was well until I was a few miles from the Canadian/Michigan border. Without warning, everything around the tiny plane turned pitch black, taking me completely by surprise. Squinting out the window, the city lights below me were no longer visible. It took a couple of seconds to realize I had just flown into the clouds, which are completely invisible at night!

I was seized with panic and momentarily lost control of the plane, even screaming at one point that I was going to die that night. The instruments told me I was gyrating in the air, climbing and then descending a thousand feet a minute. Somehow, I pulled myself together and got the plane under control, using what little instrument training I had at that point.

After getting a hold of myself, I focused on keeping the plane right side up and followed the direction of the pink line on the handheld GPS (which a friend had lent me for the trip, saving my life). As quickly as I entered the clouds, I popped out on the other end as if unknown forces delivered me from the darkness of my mother's womb into the clear with the airport right in front of me. I made the worst landing of my life and could hardly walk for my knees were so rubbery. But I was unharmed. Divine intervention?

Incident # 8: I wrote a story called "Blizzard Housecleaning" several months ago which can be found here. Divine intervention?

Food for thought: Everything happens for a reason. We have no way of knowing God's plans for us but regardless of what happens to us, we are being prepared for the future in some capacity.
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Friday, September 22, 2006

The World is Conspiring to Bless You

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A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled "Ask and You Shall Receive Miracles" which can be found by clicking here. I am a firm believer that if you have just enough faith and believe that the world is conspiring to shower you with blessings, then that's exactly what will happen to you.

When you walk around believing this, adversity is much easier to deal with. You still have to face it but it doesn't become a long, drawn out painful process. It's all about perception - how you see adversity that determines the outcome in your life.

Several months after I quit Wall Street (during the early nineties), I was running dangerously low on funds. I had sold off most of my investments to survive. It was one of the hardest times of my life.

It was also one of the best because I learned it didn’t take very much to survive.

One hot Saturday afternoon in July, I went to a seminar for the local chapter of the National Speakers Association in New York City. They had a guest speaker from out of town that had come in to talk to our group. It was a day-long event starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m.

At noon, we were given an hour for lunch on our own. Not wanting to venture far because it was horribly muggy that day, I elected to eat at the hotel’s restaurant with another colleague from the seminar.

We all know how hotel restaurants are what some people might consider to be pricey. Everything on the menu was at $18.99 and above, except for a bowl of soup. They were offering soup of the day for "only" $9.99. Wow, what a deal!

I only had ten bucks and change on me, so I ended up having cream of broccoli. As you can imagine, it was not exactly fulfilling - it was like ordering a very expensive can of Campbell's Soup; but it did its job, temporarily wiping away hunger pangs. We quickly slurped our soups, ate all the crackers we could (in fact, we stuffed several more small bags of crackers in our pockets in case we got hungry later), paid the bill and returned to the seminar for the rest of the afternoon.

After it was over, I went home and went straight to the mailbox to find a hefty stack of mail waiting for me. One envelope immediately grabbed my attention. It was flaming red with no return address on it. Intrigued, I opened that one first.

As I was opening it, something fell out. What I saw shocked me. It was literally floating like a butterfly, sliding down to the floor in slow motion. Mesmerized, I stared at it. Was this a dream? Was this really happening? When I came to my senses, I quickly picked it up and shoved it in my pocket, lest someone else, who happened to be walking by in the lobby, had the same idea.

Can you guess what it was?

It was a $10 bill!

Have you ever had an experience like that? Perhaps you found money on the sidewalk or money came to you unexpectedly from an unknown source, just when you needed it? Or perhaps you took a risk and paid for something, not knowing you would get your investment back?

Now more intrigued then ever, I tore open the red envelope, wondering where it came from. The letter was from a survey company “bribing” me to fill out a survey. I thought to myself, “Hey, no problem, you just paid for my lunch today!”

Then it hit me, who says God can’t handle small details?

Food for thought: By being open minded and trusting of what comes your way, worry not, nothing that arrives will be more than what you can handle. The world is conspiring to bless you if you just believe it.
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Monday, September 18, 2006

How I, a Deaf Pilot, Turned an Idea into an Adventure -- Part V of V

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(Continued from Part IV)

Next to the door at the bottom of the tower was the intercom. This didn't faze me in the least. Long ago, I learned a neat trick in New York City where almost everyone lived in apartment buildings with an intercom system. All I had to do was press the button and simultaneously pull on the door handle until the person upstairs buzzed me in. I did it again that morning.

Closing the heavy vault-like door behind me, I saw before me a long, winding staircase that forever spiraled upward. The steps were muddy and the walls were murky brown, giving off a dark, ominous feel to it. I was immediately transported to a windowless medieval castle from the Middle Ages. Taking a deep breath, I began the long ascend.

A slender 5' 8" man with a fast receding hairline was waiting for me at the top. Clipped to the pocket of his polyester shirt was a government-issued badge with a badly outdated photo. He had looked a lot younger with gobs of hair back then. Glancing beneath the photo, it read, "Shift Supervisor." He was alone - the others would probably be arriving shortly.

Although uncertain and somewhat apprehensive at having been summoned to the tower, I bravely offered my hand to thank him for the light gun landing.

To my surprise, he laughed heartily and said, “No problem. Very happy to help.” In a split-second, the energy in the air seemed to shift from negative to positive. Maybe I wasn't in trouble after all. But I still I wasn't sure.

Then I noticed a huge red welt across his forehead. Curious and concerned, I decided to ask him about it.

“Sir, what happened to your forehead?”

With an air of self-depreciating humor, he said, “You know how it took forever to give you the green light?”

“Oh yes!”

“Well, see that table over there in the corner? I had to climb on it to get the light gun off the ceiling. The problem was, I didn’t know how to unlatch it. When I finally figured it out, the darn thing came crashing down on me!"

"Suddenly feeling sorry for him, I stammered, “Oh my gosh, I didn't mean to put you through all that trouble sir!"

“Not a problem at all. Please enjoy your breakfast downstairs. When you’re ready for takeoff, you will use Runway 32 on the other side. Just call us like you did this morning and we'll take care of you. "

Glad that I really wasn't getting a verbal reprimand for my mid-morning adventure, I enthusiastically replied, “Well, thank you sir, I'll do just that!"

Going down the narrow staircase was a tad trickier than coming up. It was much steeper than it first looked - it seemed to spiral straight down into the abyss.

It was a relief to finally push the heavy door open and step outside into the bright sunlight. Wiping the sweat off my forehead, I found the restaurant next door. It was moderately busy but there were plenty of tables to choose from. I took one by the window with a full view of the airport.

A perky waitress quickly appeared out of thin air, magically extracted a pen from the back of her head, dabbed it on the tip her tongue and took my order. I decided to splurge and ordered a ham and cheese omelet with extra bacon, whole wheat toast and coffee. After downing two cups of coffee and mopping the plate clean, I paid the bill and went back out to the plane.

While conducting the pre-takeoff inspection, I kept glancing up at the tower to see if my new-found friend was watching. He wasn’t. Perhaps he was busy tending to traffic.

Finished with the preflight, I climbed in the aircraft, pressed the start button and the engine roared to life. Switching on the radios, I put in a call for permission to taxi. A flashing green light came right away. I couldn't tell if it was from the same controller or not.

Upon arriving at the run-up area, the plane was turned around to face the tower so that when it came time to request permission for takeoff, I could see the light signal without having to crane my neck like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist."

In a matter of minutes, I was ready to go.

“Jackson Tower, Piper 455H, request takeoff clearance, Runway 32.”

A moment later, huge, gigantic blinders that covered the entire southeast side of the tower rose up majestically. It was like watching the curtains go up at a Broadway show.

They had a surprise in store for me. Rather than getting a solid green light like I expected, I received a flashing green signal instead. It took a second to realize they were giving me clearance to taxi to the runway and hold for release.

I soon understood why. A corporate jet was taking off from an adjacent runway. As if in a trance, I sat awestruck in the middle of Runway 32 and watched the sleek jet climb two thousand feet a minute while its landing gear folded gracefully underneath. It had a hypnotic affect on me.

After it was a mere speck in the sky, I snapped back to reality and turned to focus at the tower.

As soon my eyes adjusted, a solid green light appeared. My heart leapt with joy.

Thrusting the throttles wide open for maximum take-off power, the Piper Archer rose effortlessly into the pretty blue sky. When the plane reached a thousand feet, I put her in a gentle climbing turn to the right - the direction of my home airport.

As we climbed, I reached for the radio one last time and bid farewell to the controller. In my imagination, he was smiling back at me.

When I got back home, I learned it was a good thing I did not try to fly home the night before. Apparently, someone had a gear-up landing accident, causing my home airport to shut down for several hours. Imagine the consequences had I not listened to my intuition and made my first maiden night flight!

Food for thought: Have fun, be adventurous and be sure to act on your intuition, for it may safe your life. Helen Keller once said, "Life is either a great adventure or nothing."
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

How I, a Deaf Pilot, Turned an Idea into an Adventure - Part IV

(Continued from Part III)

I was smiling because I was struck with the idea of having breakfast at the Jackson County Airport (KJXN), a mere 33 miles away. With mounting excitement, I entered the new airport identifier into the GPS and punched the "Direct To" button. It indicated that I would be there in about 20 minutes in the Piper Archer.

Glancing at the Detroit chart in front of me, I found the airport was encircled by broken blue lines with the number 35 enclosed in brackets. That meant pilots could not enter Jackson County's airspace between the ground up to and including 3500 feet without first establishing radio contact and then obtaining a clearance to land.

"As long as I am at least 1,000 feet or more ABOVE this ceiling when I get there, I'll be fine." I said to myself.

To comply with FAA recommended cruising altitudes, I climbed to 5,500 feet, giving me a nice 2,000 foot buffer above Jackson's airspace. I was going to have to descend almost four thousand feet in a hurry once I got permission to land but I would worry about that later.

The next thing was to get in touch with the controller and give him the surprise of a lifetime.

“Jackson Tower, this a deaf pilot in Piper Archer 455H, 30 miles southwest, will be requesting light gun landing for Runway 14.”

Every tower has a light gun to guide pilots with malfunctioning radios (or no radios at all---they still exist today, believe it or not). A light gun functions like a manually controlled traffic light for airports with towers except that there is one headlight capable of producing red, white or green colors.

I decided to let my first radio call sink in, assuming the controller on duty was still waking up and enjoying his first cup of coffee.

The red light on my radio stack immediately flickered to life. Someone was talking on this frequency. I sure hoped it wasn't the controller responding back to me! If it was, maybe he didn't hear the "deaf pilot" part!

Ten miles later, I had a Freudian slip of the tongue when I checked in again.

“Jackson Tower, repeating that I’m a very hungry deaf pilot er, er, in Piper Archer 455H, now 20 miles southwest, er, er, will request light gun landing, er, er Runway 14.”

My face was probably red as a beet but I pressed on, hoping for the best. I wasn't violating anything. After all, you only live once!

With 15 miles to go, I spotted the large sprawling metropolitan airport up ahead. This time I had my radio act together.

"Jackson Tower, deaf pilot in Piper Archer 455H, 15 miles southwest, will circle above airport at 5,500 to receive light gun signal for Runway 14.”

After two more calls at the ten and five mile waypoints, I was finally on top of them. Putting the airplane in a 20 degree bank to the left, so that the tower was in my line of sight at all times, I began to circle like a hawk, watching and waiting.

As I was making my first round, I didn't see anything come from the tower.

I double checked the frequency - 120.7. It was the right one.

Puzzled, I made contact once again: “Jackson Tower, deaf pilot in Piper Archer 455H, now circling above you for light gun landing, Runway 14.”

On the second trip around the bend, they still hadn't given me what I wanted.

Something weird was going on.

It shouldn't take this long, especially so early in the morning with hardly any other traffic.

Entering the holding pattern a third time, if I did not get permission to land after this one, I decided I would simply go home. No harm would be done - at least I had fun trying.

Upon completing the last circle, I was about to break off and head home when a miracle happened. They finally aimed their light gun right at me with the strongest beam of green light I had ever seen!

Beside myself with joy, my response was rapid-fire, "Jackson Tower, Piper Archer 455H, I see the green light, thank you. Will make downwind entry, left base approach for Runway 14."

Since I was now cleared to land, I immediately began the descend and headed southeast, away from the airport, so that I could have enough room to turn around and come back for landing at the proper altitude.

After descending almost a thousand feet per minute and turning towards the airport, I landed a few minutes later and took the second exit off the runway. The tower gave me a flashing green light almost immediately, giving me permission to taxi across an active runway towards the restaurant (which happened to be next to the tower).

Parking by the restaurant, I climbed out and glanced up. Someone from the tower was looking down at me. Feeling real proud for having made a landing at a towered airport all by myself for the very first time, eagerly gave him two thumbs up.

He responded by curling his finger back and forth as if inviting me upstairs. The reflecting sun off the glass made it hard for me to see his face clearly so I couldn't tell if he was smiling or not.

Suddenly feeling like a child guilty of committing a naughty act, I pointed at myself, "Me??"

The man gestured to the bottom left to indicate where the entrance was.

"Oh my God! Did I do something wrong?"

To be continued.........
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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Interview at Dream Job Dialog

I met Michael Werner, CEO and Publisher of InfoSource through EzineArticles where we both actively write articles that are syndicated all across the Internet. His company's products cover PC applications, professional development skills for teachers, and IT certification training among many other things. InfoSource employs approximately 60 people at its office complex in Florida. The company was twice named to the INC 500, INC. Magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in America.

Aside from running the company, Michael has a blog called Dream Job Dialog that helps people go after their dream jobs or create them. I liked his blog so much that I put it under "Stephen's Favorite Blogs" on the right side of the home page of Adversity University.

After finding me over at Ezine Articles, Michael asked and received my permission to publish some of my articles on his sites. Soon thereafter, we were corresponding on a daily basis, getting to know one another better, mostly talking about ways of reaching teachers and helping people create dream jobs for themselves.

At one point, he invited me to consider the idea of interviewing me for the benefit of his readers at Dream Job Dialog. It was posted here. Enjoy!
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How I, a Deaf Pilot, Turned an Idea into an Adventure-Part III

(Continued from Part II)

Making my way across the inky black ramp to the airplane, a gust of cold air blew across the landscape, causing me to shiver involuntarily. Goose bumps spread like wildfire causing me to rub my arms vigorously. A cold front was passing through.

Opening the door to the luggage compartment, I hurriedly rifled through my duffle bags, not remembering whether I had packed a sweatshirt. All I had that was remotely useful was a lightweight Gore-Tex jacket. In the far corner, I noticed something clumpy. Thinking that it was a blanket, my hope surged and then went flat in one fell swoop when it turned out to be a bunch of oily rags.


Crestfallen for not being more prepared for something like this, I climbed into the cockpit, eased the door shut and clicked the lock into place with a resounding snap.

Sliding into the co-pilot seat, I surveyed the makeshift hotel. Paris Hilton would certainly not have approved. And a contortionist I was not, my expanding waist saw to that. But it will do.

First, I stretched across the two front seats, curling into a fetal position but when protruding seatbelt buckles poked out menacingly, I tried lying on my back, then on my stomach. It went like this all night. With each new position, my legs were forcibly crammed into very unnatural positions.

Oh my.

This was actually the least of my problems. Not only was I shivering uncontrollably but I had the sheer audacity to park right by the rotating beacon, which kept waking me up every 60 seconds. It reminded me of those prisoner-of-war movies where powerful spotlights swept across the prison yard, spilling light in and out of dark bungalows along the way.

Somehow I got the hang of it and fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.

At daybreak, I sleepily looked outside the cockpit. What I saw made me think I had died and gone to heaven.

The entire airport was completely fogged in!

The fog swallowed up everything in sight, including the wings of the airplane. I knew I wasn't leaving anytime soon.

For three hours, I bumbled around the airport, watching the rising sun cut swaths through the fog. It was beginning working its magic because the surrounding tree line, completely shrouded earlier, was now becoming visible with each passing minute. Glancing at my watch, it was 9 am. In another hour, I would take the plane up for a "look-see" by circling directly above the airport and survey the surrounding area. If it was still foggy in the outlying areas, I would come right back down and wait some more.

At exactly 10 am, the "look-see" plan swung into action. Advancing the throttle wide open, the plane roared happily and lifted into the morning air with nary a bump. During the climb out, I scanned left to right. Aside from occasional wisps of fog, almost all of it was gone. Relieved, I punched my home airport identifier (KVLL-formerly known as 7D2) into the GPS and turned to the correct heading.

Within five minutes, my stomach was growling, reminding me that I hadn't eaten breakfast yet.

"I'll be home in another forty-five minutes, you can wait," I told my stomach.

It growled louder in defiance.

It was then I remembered there was an airport along the way that had a restaurant right on the field. I had been there many times and the food was pretty good. Why not stop there?

There was one problem.

This airport had a control tower.

"How would I, a deaf pilot, get in?" I thought.

As I was pondering this, I remembered something someone had told me at the Kansas fly-in. This person told me that by making special arrangements with the tower supervisor the day before or day of departure, that he was able to fly in and out of controlled airports with no problems.

How he did this was by contacting the supervisor via a special phone service (from home or the home airport) and asking if it was possible for him to make a landing via a light gun signal (used nowadays in cases of radio failures). If the controller was willing to accommodate him, a date, approximate time of arrival and runway of use would be agreed upon. When the deaf pilot was within the vicinity of the airport, the tower would flash a powerful beam of green light, giving him permission to land. (There are other lights that mean different things but a green light is what deaf pilots want to see).

As I was recalling this conversation, I realized I hadn't made any such arrangements.

"Oh well, there's always another time."

The moment I thought that, a crazy idea was born. I smiled for the first time since that morning.

To be continued........
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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How I, a Deaf Pilot, Turned an Idea into an Adventure of Lifetime - Part II

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(Continued from Part I)

Five and a half hours later, I arrived in Kansas, tired but elated. A handful of deaf pilots were on hand at the airport to welcome me. I felt right at home.

Throughout the week, we flew to different locations, including Amelia Earhart’s birthplace. On most of those flights, one or two passengers was usually on board to share in the cost of flying the airplane. Although Kansas is well known for its thunderstorms during the summer, we were mercifully spared and got to do almost everything that was on the schedule.

Everyone had a great time and the week flew by all too quickly. Soon it was time to go separate ways and return home.

Fortunately, I would be getting a little tailwind on the day of departure and because of that, I decided I had enough time to make a stop in Illinois to visit with a fellow pilot before continuing the rest of the way.

After flying for about two hours, my friend greeted me at the Illinois airport. We spent the afternoon catching up and ate a delicious lunch at his house. At one point, I glanced at the clock and realized it was getting late. It was almost 5 pm. I still had another 3 hours of flying before arriving at my home airport and I wanted to get there before sunset. At that time, I was not yet comfortable flying at night. I was still a relatively new pilot and was not ready to stretch my comfort zone.

My friend quickly took me back to the airport and dropped me off. After refueling and getting a weather update, I was back in the air, climbing to 7,500 feet, heading east. I dodged low-level clouds here and there and motored on for two and a half hours, enjoying the scenery below me.

Based on the GPS, I could see that I was not going to make my home airport before sunset. I began making preparations to land somewhere for the night. Looking through my list of alternate airports, I picked one that was only 45 minutes away from my final destination. I keyed in the airport identification (KOEB) into the GPS and punched the "Direct To" button.

Thirty minutes later, I saw the green and white rotating beacon of that airport. The sun was just about to dip below the horizon, plunging the entire area into darkness. I knew I made a good choice to land there.

Circling above the airport to check the position of the windsock (to determine the direction of the wind), I made an uneventful landing on the appropriate runway. After landing, I taxied over to the terminal building, looking for a place to park for the night. My intention was to go into the airport lounge to sleep on the couch and then fly the rest of the way home the next morning.

But the problem was I couldn't decide whether to stay put or continue my flight. I was having an argument with myself over this. After all, I reasoned, it’s only another 45 minutes to my home airport and I have to make a night flight sometime - why not tonight? The weather was gorgeous with clear, calm skies.

It was very tempting but something told me not to push it. Reluctantly, I picked a spot by the terminal building and shut down. I would later find out it was not the best place to park.

Stepping out of the airplane, I noticed it was eerily still in the cool, damp air. Not a single soul was around. It was a weird feeling being by myself at such an unfamiliar place.

Most small airports have a combination lock on their buildings to prevent unauthorized people from entering after-hours. Only pilots had access to the combination because they knew where to look for it (the airport facility directory). That way they could stop in for a vending-machine snack or catch a quick nap before continuing on with their flights.

As I approached the building, I was shocked to see it did not have a combination lock. I could have sworn the airport facility directory mentioned this place had one. Upon closer inspection, I could see the door was bolted from inside! Perhaps I was mistaken.

A million thoughts ran through my head, "How am I going to get in?" "Where am I going to sleep tonight?"

My first reaction was to check the front entrance to see if it had a combination lock.

No such luck.

Taking a deep breath, I surveyed the area. The gravel parking lot was illuminated by the moonlight yet completely devoid. The road that ran alongside the airport was pitch black, overshadowed by towering pine trees on both sides. There was nothing for miles around. I was the only breathing soul there.

I decided to try one more time to get in the building and made my way to the back door again. Aggressively rattling the doorknob, twisting and pulling, it would not budge. Peering inside, I could see the faint outline of a couch. How I wanted to get in there!

Slowly turning around, I stared at the small airplane.

It was going to be a long night.

To be continued..........
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Monday, September 11, 2006

How I, a Deaf Pilot, Turned an Idea into an Adventure of Lifetime - Part I

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The story I’m about to share with you contains small measures of obstacles due to my deafness and is not related to major adversity. But as you read through the story, watch how I turned an idea into an adventure. It is broken up to 3, perhaps 4 parts.

Deaf pilots have been flying since the late forties. They are not required to use the radio as long as they stay out of "controlled airspace." Out of 12,000 airports in this country, only 700 have control towers, the rest do not. That means deaf pilots can fly in and out of 11,300 airports without the need to use the radio.

Just like when you're driving your car, you watch and avoid other drivers - deaf pilots do the same thing by "seeing and avoiding" other planes when landing, taking off, taxiing for takeoff or flying enroute. Of course, it goes without saying that all of this must be done only under good weather conditions. The "see and avoid" concept goes out the window once the weather turns sour. (That would require a different kind of license and the use of radio - we won't cover that here).

Perhaps you are probably wondering why anyone would want to spend hours in a small aircraft when one could travel much faster in a commercial jet. Well, there’s a big difference between being a pilot in command of an aircraft versus riding as a passive passenger on an airline. Nothing compares to being in control of an airplane hurtling through the sky at 150 miles an hour, several thousand feet in the air. What could be more exciting than having the earth instead of gravel sliding beneath you?

It is nothing like driving a car with signs posted on the roadside. To navigate my way across the sky, I have available to me an aviation map (i.e. aeronautical chart), a GPS as well as other instruments. It is a completely different form of travel, and there are definitely some inconveniences built into it. For instance, you can’t exactly pull over if you run out of gas, nor can you respond to Mother Nature (unless you bring with you a special "flask" designed for such pressing needs!).

So how does a pilot ensure against running out of fuel? Wind factors, length of flight, fuel burn rates are all taken into consideration when planning a trip. Airports along the way are looked into as possible refueling pit stops. Despite the inability to pull over for gas or to go to the bathroom, pilots will find every excuse in the book to fly themselves if weather and other factors permit. It’s a “pilot thing.”

Deaf pilots have it a little more challenging. The weather is constantly changing and because of their inability to communicate on the radio for weather updates, they are supposed to be prepared to make a pre-cautionary landing at an airport along the way if the weather should suddenly change for the worst. If the pilot is unsure of what lies ahead, he would have to land and obtain a weather update on the ground. On the other hand, pilots who can hear may not need to make such landings because they have the option of contacting the weather briefer on the radio for updates and perhaps navigate their way around the weather. They have it easier in comparison.

Shortly after receiving my first pilot’s license in July 2001, I decided to reward myself by renting a new four-seater plane and flying myself from Michigan to Kansas City. The purpose of this trip was to attend an annual deaf pilots’ association fly-in, where pilots from around the world gathered for a week of local sightseeing flights, barbeques, award ceremonies, and comradeship. It was the first time I would be surrounded by deaf pilots, many of whom used sign language as their primary method of communication. Although I never learned sign until I got to college, I was proficient enough with it to communicate with them.

On the morning of my departure, I arrived very early at the airport, a short 20 minute drive from my home in Michigan. At exactly 5 am, I pulled the plane out of the gigantic hangar, packed my luggage and got busy setting things up for the 550 mile cross-country flight. There was a lot to do. The plane had to be inspected, the fuel tanks had to be topped off and the oil checked. Every airport has a weather room where pilots can check up on current and forecasted weather affecting the route of flight. My calculations told me it would take nearly five hours with one fuel stop in Illinois. The weather was forecasted to be clear, with occasional clouds along the way.

It was good to go!

To be continued.........
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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Humorous Way of Looking at Success

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How do you define success? Today I was reading "Your Road Map to Success" by John C. Maxwell and came across something in his book that I wanted to share with you.

The author had heard a story where three business professionals were engaging in a conversation about what success meant to them.

The first one said, "I'd say I had arrived if I were summoned to the White House for a private, personal meeting with the President of the United States."

The second one chimed in, "To me, success would mean meeting with the President in the Oval Office, having the hot line ring during our talk, and watching the president ignore it."

Finally, the third one said, "No, you've both got it wrong. You're a success if you're privately consulting with the president, the hot line rings, he picks it up, and he says, 'It's for you.'"

Food for thought: Well, what did you think of them apples? What does success really mean to you?
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How to Tear Down the "Mental Berlin Wall" in Your Mind

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Do you ever wonder why ideas sometimes don't seem to be forthcoming? If you're a writer, perhaps you've suffered from the so-called "writer's block." If you fall in this category, you're probably wondering how to knock those walls down to make way for actionable ideas.

One way is through a lot of creative writing. People frequently ask how I have been able to come up with so many articles these days for my blog, website and other projects. It did not happen overnight - I've been writing in one form or another since the mid 90's.

Here’s how to dig into the well of actionable ideas within you:

1. Start a private dairy and write everything that comes to mind without regard to spelling, grammar or sentence structure. Do this for a few minutes every day for a couple of months. Don't worry whether or not your words make sense. They are not for public consumption anyway. Like building your muscles at the gym, you are exercising your creative juices. Starting a private diary will begin to weaken the mental blockages.

2. Sit at your computer with your eyes closed. Let your mind dictate what your fingers will do on the keyboard. Describe in words what you imagine yourself doing, saying, acting and thinking twenty years from now. Let your mind run amok and don't worry about proper writing protocol. This will surely get your creative juices flowing even faster because you'll have fun writing your future!

3. Purchase the book, "The Artist's Way," by Julia Cameron. It’s a great resource for getting in touch with your inner creativity. It is full of writing exercises that are designed for solo and/or group work. If you motor through the entire book, not only will you access the stairwell of your imagination but you will also learn how to trust yourself, further tearing down the mental "Berlin Wall."

4. I also recommend you get "Simple Abundance" by Sara Ban Breathnach. It was from her book that I began to write, on a daily basis, at least 3 to 5 things I was grateful for that day. It helped me:

a. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
b. Recognize more of the positives rather than the negatives of life
c. Attract more of what I was grateful for
d. Make way for creative ideas

5. Start composing short stories about your life's experiences. This will force you to become more disciplined because you’re now paying more attention to spelling, sentence structure and so forth.

As you rewrite (and rewrite) to polish your first draft, you will learn how to make it flow better with less, rather than more words. The path to your inner pool of ideas is now becoming well worn by this point because you're keeping at it on a frequent basis, preventing mental blockages from building back up.

Think of it this way. Ever been to a nature trail? If a lot of people walk the path, hardly any grass will grow there, right? If no one came for months for a hike, what would happen? Grass and weeds would obstruct the path. It's the same concept here. The more you write, the more you clear away mental blockages because you've traveled down that way many times.

6. Look around the internet to test the strength of your short stories. Give sites like and EzineArticles a try. They cost nothing and are moderated by human editors, which mean all submissions are individually reviewed before being accepted.

For almost a year, I used Heartwarmers to test the quality of my short stories because only one was selected for their daily newsletter, sent to 50,000 subscribers around the world. That meant if my story was accepted, than it must have been of good quality. Three of them that were previously accepted at the Heartwarmers site eventually found their way to best-selling books like "Chicken Soup for the College Soul," "heartwarmers" and "Magical Souvenirs: Mystical Travel Stories from Around the World." That says a lot about the quality of their stories. Go check them out!

7. Create a blog. is the easiest, in my opinion, for the non-techie. Having a blog will motivate you to write more because now you have a level of responsibility to your readers. I've written over 60 articles since creating this blog a couple months ago. You'd be surprised how much information you have inside you, dying to get out. The more you write, the more ideas will come bubbling to the surface.

8. Now you’re ready to carry around a notepad everywhere you go. Since you’ve cleared the way for ideas, they will start to come out of nowhere. Sometimes they come fast and furious. If you don’t have a way of recording them at a moment's notice, they'll be gone forever because they are by nature fleeting. Often they lead you to a certain course of action, opening the way for your dreams to come true.

And it all starts with creative writing!

Food for thought: Start a private diary or write 5 things you're grateful everyday to get a head start on releasing mental blockages. The practice of creative writing is like unclogging a blocked artery, making way for a torrent of blood (ideas) to flow.
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Have Courage to Be Upfront--New Car Loan

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Being upfront about something in order to get what you want takes courage. Sometimes we have to part with private information that we don't necessarily want other people to know about because it might put us in a vulnerable position.

Today's story is about the time when I applied for my very first car loan in 1998 after moving 1,000 miles away from New York City to work on a book project, which you now know eventually fell through because God had other plans for me (to learn how to become a pilot).

After looking at a few dealerships and being turned down for a car loan, I was at my wit’s end. I confided in a colleague about this and he gave me the name of a large Dodge dealership where he bought his Jeep from.

Upon setting foot in the showroom, I was met by a young, overly enthusiastic salesman named Jeff. He appeared fresh out of college, probably eager to make his first sale. What he didn’t know was that moments before walking in, I had an overwhelming impression to be upfront with whoever greeted me about my credit history (you know from previous articles that I had bad credit from being reckless during the early eighties).

As soon as we sat down, I immediately launched into the “bad debt” story. His shoulders sagged a little and I could tell he thought I was probably a lost case. But to his credit, he mustered a smile, saying he would do his best and asked that I fill out the necessary paperwork anyway. He then took my application and disappeared into the manager’s office, nestled somewhere out of sight, hidden from the public eye.

While waiting for Jeff to come back, I spotted a distinguished-looking salesman at the far end of the showroom. There was something magical about his appearance, desk location and mannerisms. For some inexplicable reason, I felt compelled to speak with him.

Glancing in the direction where Jeff previously made his departure and not seeing him anywhere, I decided to walk over and introduce myself to this man. Stopping a few feet from his desk, my eyes were immediately drawn to his nameplate.

Mr. Shoebottom.

“What a strange name,” I thought. “I never heard of that one before. It sounds like something right out of a children's storybook.”

The man was on the phone. Seeing that I was standing there, waiting to speak with him, he covered the mouthpiece and said, "I'll be right with you."

Not wanting to distract Mr. Shoebottom any further, I went browsing around the showroom, while keeping an eye on him. As soon as he hung up the phone, I would dash over there.

Finally, he stood up and waved to me. As I was making my way over, I glanced once again to where I last saw Jeff. Seeing that he still had not returned from the manager’s office, I picked up my pace.

The friendly salesman reached out to shake my hand (rather firmly, I might add) and asked, "Sir, how may I help you?"

Peeking down at his nameplate once again to make sure I wasn't imagining things , I said, "Mr. Shoebottom, my name is Stephen Hopson and I'm here to buy a car for the first time in my life. Someone recommended your dealership, which is why I'm here today. I filled out some paperwork and gave it to Jeff over there for processing. But, there's one potential problem."

"And what might that be?" he said pleasantly.

I pushed on, "Sir, I messed up my credit during the early eighties and although I've been cleaning it up the last few years, the credit check might reveal less than desirable information. To be honest with you, I'm a little worried about it."

His face immediately changed from the detached, business-like expression to one of genuine understanding. The sudden transformation took me aback. I must have triggered something in him - I just didn’t know what. I would find out a few days later.

“Please have a seat, I'll go see how Jeff is doing with your paperwork. I'll be right back."

It wasn't long before Mr. Shoebottom appeared with the young salesman in tow. He was beaming as if he just made the biggest sale of the month.

"Mr. Hopson, your car loan was approved. Congratulations!"

It took me a second to gather my wits.

Not believing my eyes (remember I lip-read) I said, “WHAT!?!? I don’t need a co-signor or anything?”

“Your report did not have any history of bad credit like you thought it would.”

Either he was telling me the truth and my credit history was actually clean OR he liked me so much that an exception was made to give me a loan without a co-signer.

A million thoughts rammed through my head. I remember thinking, if my credit was so good, then how come the previous 3 dealerships turned me down for a loan? It just didn’t make any sense.

Well, I'll never know. And you know what? It doesn’t matter! It brings to mind a quote from Joel Osteen's best-selling book, "Your Best Life Now":

"God's favor is opening doors of opportunity. His favor is bringing success in your life. His favor is causing people to make exceptions for you."

When I went back to pick up my new car a couple days later, I was dying to ask Mr. Shoebottom (how can you forget that name?) what really happened.

With a warm, knowing smile, he said, “Several years earlier, I had experienced a very bad bankruptcy and know first-hand what it is like to be denied a loan because of bad credit.”

Wow! That said it all. No wonder I felt strangely drawn to the man with a storybook name!

Food for thought: People who take a big risk to follow their dreams, move a thousand miles away and take a shot at being upfront about their personal situation are rewarded in a big way because God will cause you to be at the right time at the right place with the right people if you have the right attitude!
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Saturday, September 02, 2006

6 Ways a Change of Perception Can Benefit You - Bonus: "Beauty Spots" Story

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If you are a regular reader of "Adversity University," you may have noticed a common denominator emerging amongst my writings. Can you guess what it is? I'll give you 30 seconds to figure it out (no peeking!).

Ok, time is up.

If your guess was something like "life is a matter of perception." You were right.

Today I want to do something different. First, I would like to outline 6 ways your life can benefit by changing your perception of what happens to you. Then I will give you a link to someone else's story on this subject (at the bottom).


1. You become more in tune with the universal flow of life. You start to see the meaning behind little, every day things. You also start to see signs from God, confirming you’re on the right path. You understand that by being in a frenetic state of mind, you block yourself from receiving information from universal intelligence.

2. Because of your heightened awareness, you might get an answer to a perplexing problem that’s plagued you for weeks through a word, a phrase in an advertisement or an image in a movie. You’ll react with “Aha, that’s the answer, why didn’t I think of that before?”

3. You lead a more relaxed way of life because you now understand that there are many things that happen to you that are out of your control. For example, instead of working yourself in a frenzy because your plane is late for departure (which you have no control over), you simply go with the flow because you understand that if you got upset, it's because you chose to!

4. Even though you can’t see your guardian angels, they are always around you, helping you with your journey, if you let them. They are constantly guiding you with thoughts, signs, "coincidences," miracles, etc.

5. Your ability to see, hear and feel beyond your five senses is greatly enhanced because you are now more aware.

6. Finally, you understand that trying to control every little thing brings about even more chaos in your life. Getting upset, worrying, controlling and manipulating are all energy wasters, attracting more drama that you don't need. You know that if you do your best and then let the rest go ("Let go and let God"), things will unfold more naturally. There's no need for pushing, shoving and stepping on other people's toes to get what you want.

And now for the "Beauty Spots" story by Jamie Weather. All efforts to reach her for permission to reprint it here have failed. Therefore, I have no choice but to give you a link to the site where it was originally published six years ago.

I hope you read her inspirational story, because I guarantee your perceptions of this women's adversity will forever be changed. It will cause you to pause and maybe change how you perceive other people, especially those with a disability. When you get there, please scroll down the page until you see "Beauty Spots."

Food for thought: What did you think of Jamie Weather's story? Did it help you change your perception of her situation? Next time you see someone like her, will you see that person in a different way?
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Friday, September 01, 2006

You Have Never Made a Mistake in Your Life!

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There are no mistakes, only experiences.

In reality, there is no such thing as a mistake because we have free will and we are free to do what we want, when we want and in any way we choose. Man coined the word “mistakes” because he created an elaborate list of do’s and don’ts. If you did what you weren’t supposed to do, then according to the man-made set of rules, you made a mistake in the eyes of society.

I disagree.

Everything you do is simply an experience. It is the accumulation of experiences that have made you to be the person you are today. If you hadn’t stumbled and fallen flat on your face, you wouldn’t have learned how to face and overcome adversity, for example.

Here are a few things that have happened in my life that others might perceive as "mistakes," "disasters" or simply "bad." I have written about most of them and for those of you who are visiting for the first time, a link has been provided for your convenience. If you've already read the stories, the link is there if you want to refresh your memory.

Stephen's Experiences

a. Gave up my home of 15 years in New York City to move 1,000 miles away to another state to participate in a book project only to see it fall apart a year later.

b. Worked for a very difficult boss who truly tried to make life impossible for me. That story, "Harry, The Bank Boss" is here.

c. Scary experience at the barber shop, where I literally feared for my physical safety. Go here to read about it ("Adversity at the Barber Shop").

d. Mismanaged my finances during the mid-eighties, causing myself to be riddled with debt. You can read part of that story by clicking here ("Ask and You Shall Receive Miracles").

e. Opened an investment account with the "grandmotherly client" at Merrill Lynch only to have her threaten me with legal action a few years later. That one is here ("How to Banish Worry When All Hell Breaks Loose").

f. Was hoping to open a multi-million dollar account with the "wealthy lady from Oregon" only to find out she had me snookered - she turned out to be a fake. I posted that story yesterday - in case you missed it, it's right here ("Part III - Trust That There are Bigger Plans in Store for You - CNN Story").

g. Shaved my head in high school in hopes of making the swimming finals but failed to make it. Click here to read the story ("Entertain the Possibilities-Swimming Championships").

h. Moved away from the podium during a speech early in my speaking career where my mind suddenly went blank.

i. Rinsing out my mouth with mouthwash before a major speech only to find out it was concentrated stuff, causing my tongue to swell moments before stepping on stage. Haven't read that one before? See it here ("The Value of Humor through Adversity-The Mouthwash Incident").

j. Pretended to be someone who I was not (i.e. a hearing person versus deaf), only to find myself with someone who had other things in mind for me. It is a hilarious story that could have turned tragic. You'll find that one here ("The Price You Pay for Not Accepting Yourself").

The answer to the question of whether any of the above were "mistakes" is a resounding NO.

None of them were - they were merely "experiences." Each and every one of them shaped me to be the person that I am today. I have learned some pretty incredible lessons.

Lessons Learned

a. If I hadn’t moved to 1,000 miles away from New York City, I wouldn’t have become a pilot and made aviation history 5 years later. Had I stayed there, post 9-11 airspace restrictions would have severely hampered my ability to learn how to fly. The lesson here was to follow my intuition in the face of the unknown. I moved out of NYC long before 9-11 happened.

b. Harry, "The Bank Boss" taught me that love ultimately wins in the end. I also learned how to harness the power of visualization to my benefit (got promoted).

c. The situation with the barber showed me how to remain cool in a potentially explosive and/or life threatening situation.

d. If I hadn’t mismanaged my finances, I wouldn’t have learned how to respect the energy of money.

e. The "grandmotherly client" situation taught me how to have faith in the universe during a very trying time of my life. It demonstrated that if you do everything with integrity, divine justice will prevail.

f. If I hadn't had the experience with the "fake lady" from Oregon, I wouldn't know how to tell the difference between people who are genuine and a fake. I also wouldn't have experienced the feeling of being snookered!

g. If I hadn’t shaved my head for the swimming finals, I wouldn’t have known what it was like to be the only bald kid in high school. Besides, I will not be sitting in my rocking chair as an old man, wondering whether I should have shaved my head or not. I'm glad I did!

h. As far as the "moving away from the podium" situation, I would not have learned how to turn an embarrassing event into one of humor and move on. It was actually a good thing.

i. The "concentrated mouthwash" incident taught me the same kind of lesson I learned from the "moving away from the podium" situation. Using humor works and it breaks down other people's mistrust, resistance and brings them together.

j. Not accepting my disability (deaf) caused me unnecessary pain and embarrassment, even putting my life in a very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. Lesson? It's a whole lot easier to accept and love yourself because then others can love and accept YOU for who you are.

Therefore, in God’s eyes, I’ve never made a mistake. I’ve merely accumulated a lifetime of experiences to make me the person I am today.

What about you?

Food for thought: Do you regret the things you've done or said in the past? Do you see yourself as have made "mistakes" in your life? How about if you turned those thoughts around and viewed everything that happened to you as a string of "experiences" instead? Wouldn't that make you less afraid to step outside the box for yet another "experience"? Think about it.
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