Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Flight that Almost Killed Me - Part II of II

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(Note to everyone: Here it is, the sequel to Part I but if you are pressed for time, please come back to this post later to relax with your favorite beverage because this is an exceedingly long one - probably the longest I've ever written to date but hopefully it will be an enjoyable read for you).


It was a good thing I departed Michigan on the 24th because Mother Nature threw a hissy fit and dumped several inches of snow in New York the following day, giving us the first white Christmas in a long time. This was followed by a low pressure system covering the entire Northeast, which meant I might be stuck for a few days longer than I anticipated.

A call to Berz Airport reassured me that they were not in a hurry to get their plane back. Several years ago, a renter pilot apparently felt pressured to return on time but got caught in a major thunderstorm and crashed. Not wanting to have another death on his conscience, the airport owner (Mr. Berz) went out of his way to remind renters not to mess with Mother Nature and to fly back safely. Taking his message to heart, I spent three tense-filled days waiting.

On December 29, 2002, I got the break I was looking for. Dad and I piled into his truck at 8:30 am and left for the airport. On our way there, butterflies were churning like crazy in my stomach, which was normal but mixed in there was a tiny twinge of anxiety. There was 400 miles of flying to do in the middle of winter where anything could happen!

Just as I pulled the plane out of the Schenectady County Airport hangar to conduct the preflight inspection, wet snowflakes began to fall.


Caught off guard, I pushed the plane back inside and borrowed several dry towels from the flight operations department to wipe the plane down. It was the least I could do to keep myself busy. Besides, I didn't like the idea of flying a wet airplane through subzero temperatures.

Meanwhile, the air traffic controller on duty that day, the same man who gave me a light gun landing earlier that week, came down from the tower to personally wish me luck. When I voiced concerns about the unexpected snowfall, he told me, "Oh, it's a temporary thing, don't worry, you'll be fine. It's just a snow squall passing through but the sky behind it looks quite clear." With a reassuring smile, he added, "You'll be okay."

But the snow showed no signs of slowing down. Since the plane was dry as a bone by that point, all three of us (my Dad, the controller and I) went inside the building next to the hangar and helped ourselves to some hot chocolate. At one o'clock, the sun finally broke through.

Due to the snowstorm the night before, the airport was still buried under several feet of snow. A couple of giant yellow plows were busy spewing snow over to the side. Only Runway 28 was clear. The other was halfway plowed, giving me just enough wiggle room to taxi over to Runway 28 for takeoff.

"Just follow me and I'll take you over there." said the friendly controller. It must have been a strange sight for anyone who happened to be watching this little parade. Imagine a red pick up truck slowly driving down a half-plowed runway with a small plane tagging after it!

The engine check at the run-up area revealed no anomalies. The controller parked his truck several hundred feet ahead of me, off to the side. He was leaning against the hood, holding a hand-held radio and watching me. The moment I gave thumbs up, he immediately began to talk on the radio, probably announcing to anyone who was listening on that frequency that a deaf pilot was about to takeoff from Runway 28, west-bound.

Positioning myself on the runway, I slowly pushed the throttle forward. The plane quickly gathered forward momentum and lifted easily into the sky, climbing 1,500 feet a minute. At five hundred feet, I rocked the plane sideways, bidding farewell to the controller. He waved back. Dad was probably watching from the opposite end of the airport but I couldn't see him. Still, I rocked the plane a second time, just in case.

On my way up, the clouds got closer. Should I stay below or climb over them?

Emboldened by the previous flight to New York, I put the plane in a steep climb, zigzagging around the clouds to avoid touching them. Soon, I was cruising at 10,500 feet, drinking in the glorious sunshine, a virtual carbon copy of the first trip.

On the way back, there was nothing to do but sit back and monitor the instruments, checking fuel/oil pressure indicators, the RPM and a host of other things. At one point during the scanning process, my heart skipped a beat when I noticed the fuel pressure gage bordering on red. Adjusting the throttle and fuel mixture controls seemed to have fixed the problem and the needle fell back into the green.

I was completely alone virtually the entire time I was up there. Only once did I see another airplane, a gorgeous blue and white Gulfstream jet depositing long white trails in its wake. It was flying several thousand feet below me, probably on its way to some airport in New York. Now I know why they say it's "lonely at the top"!

Three hours after rocking the wings, I began the descend for a fuel stop and a weather update at a small airport in Akron, NY, just outside Buffalo. The New York-Canadian border was just fifteen minutes west of that airport.

On the way down, I saw what looked like a clearing just north of my flight path and made a beeline toward it. But by the time I got there, it disappeared, forcing me to pull up. Although I could see the ground through patches of broken cloud layers, the holes were rapidly opening and closing like a fish's mouth in water. The small plane was simply not fast enough.

My mind was racing, contemplating, strategizing, thinking, rationalizing.

How thick are the clouds?
How high is the bottom of the cloud level?
Should I do it?

For several minutes I circled above, debating. The puffy, white clouds were busy transmuting themselves into all kinds of strange shapes and configurations. The wing tips were barely brushing by them.

Then I did something I never, ever thought I would do.

Cutting the throttle back to idle, I aggressively shoved the nose down and instantly disappeared into the clouds! The engine shook while the plane slid down an invisible chute at 2,000 feet a minute in total whiteout conditions, rendering me completely blind.

Less than a minute later, the plane sailed into the clear as if nothing happened. Panting, I looked left and right to see if anyone else was near me. No one was. But my eye caught a control tower off to the right. In the sudden mad dash through the clouds, I had inadvertently punctured the outer fringes of their airspace. That meant an irate controller in a bad mood with a pair of powerful binoculars could have easily read the tail number off the side ("airplane's license number"), tracked me down and then reported me to the authorities. My heart raced at the thought.

Moving a little further to the west, I smacked my forehead rather hard, almost knocking myself unconscious when I realized that if had I flown just another couple of miles, I would not have needed to do the little disappearing act! The entire western portion of New York was clear!

Damn, damn, damn.

At 5pm, I landed at the Akron Airport and pulled up to the self-serve fuel tanks. Both tanks were quickly filled and paid for. A call to the weather briefer verified what I had already seen on the computer with partly cloudy to clear skies with unrestricted visibility. Excited about completing the last leg of my flight, I lost no time getting back in the air. It was 6 pm. The sun was starting to set.

As I was passing over the New York-Canadian border, I was transported back to my childhood when Niagara Falls came into view. As a family, we went there for vacation a couple of times. Although it wasn't yet completely dark, it was already lit up in its brilliance.

Pulling on the yoke, I added full power and began to climb when I saw some clouds several miles ahead at my altitude. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would not a good idea. Clouds are invisible and therefore deadly at night if you don't have an instrument rating. Turning around, I went right back down and flew underneath them. It turned out to be the best decision I would make that night.

Comfortably settling at 4,500 feet, I watched with great pleasure different cities light up the night sky like Las Vegas. A well lit bridge connecting the mainland to a small island added to the extravagant visual stimuli. Several large highways seemed to crisscross to a series of curves, loops and straight lines. The night air was extraordinarily calm, making for a smooth flight. The plane was flying without input from me - I barely had to touch the yoke!

About halfway into the flight, the landscape began to alternate between large black spaces and tiny, remote villages with very few lights. But I was not worried. Everything was just fine, I would be home in another hour or so. The Canadian-Michigan border wasn't far off now.

Little did I know everything would come unglued in just a few moments!

The first warning sign came in the form of rainbow-like rings around streetlights that could be seen when flying over some of the towns.

Then I noticed a faint outline of a runway for a private airport to my left, beckoning me to land immediately. It was as if God put it there just for me. That was the second.

The third came after realizing that although the weather briefer advised me to expect clear skies with unrestricted visibility, the city lights were gradually fading away. I found myself squinting through the windshield without seeing much of anything.

While subliminally trying to process all of these warning signs and wondering just what the heck was happening, BOOM, the airplane was suddenly swallowed whole and thrown in pitch blackness!

Sheer panic spread throughout my body, causing me clench tightly on the yoke, overcontrolling the airplane. It gyrated wildly, climbing and descending like a yo-yo over a thousand feet a minute, temporarily rendering the plane out of control.


Fighting to regain control, I prayed like I never did before, using every available ounce of energy to concentrate on the panel-lit instruments. Somehow I managed to bring the airplane under control and then decided to go lower so that I could see something - ANYTHING.

In a flash of divine insight, I suddenly I remembered there were tall wireless cell phone towers everywhere! At 1,500 feet, I was dangerously low, without much of forward visibility but I didn't dare go any lower.

Gratitude overwhelmed me when the faint outline of a well lit highway suddenly appeared through the murkiness. It crossed my mind to make an emergency landing there. Traffic was sparse at that time of the night and it appeared to be wider than a runway of a major airport. But before I could put that plan into action, a pair of blinking red lights mysteriously appeared out of nowhere, completely distracting me.

Both of them were blinking a hundred feet ABOVE ME.

And I was flying BETWEEN THEM!

It took me a full minute to realize what this meant.


Heart pounding relentlessly, I delicately maneuvered between the two towers, not daring to turn around and try landing back on the highway. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, another wave of shock thundered through my exhausted body.

The GPS was taking me to the wrong airport. Instead of flying west, I was going Northeast, taking me deeper into into no man's airspace!

Drawing every last bit of air I could fill my lungs with, I shakily re-entered Berz Macomb Airport's identifier into the GPS. A new pink line was immediately remapped, telling me to bear several degrees to the left.

The fog showed no signs of letting up. Completely relying on the GPS and the instruments, I did not know whether I would survive the night but I refused to give up.

With only three miles left, the unimaginable happened.

God took one giant hand and literally wiped away the invisible clouds in one clean swoop, instantly granting me unrestricted views of the entire metropolitan Detroit area! My eyes feasted upon the sea of lights that sprawled before me. The spectacular sight was so overwhelming beautiful, I nearly missed the faintly lit runway of Berz Macomb Airport right below me.

Wiping away tears of gratitude, I knew it wasn't over until I was safely back on the ground. Clicking the mic seven times to brighten the runway lights, the plane made its final landing of the night with nary a squeak, a miracle when considering both legs were acting like a pair of jackhammers.

Slowly making my way over to the parking spot between the hangar and terminal building, I noticed a small crowd gathering on the brightly lit tarmac. I was not expecting anyone at the airport so late at night. It was almost 10 pm.

The moment I shut down the engine and opened the cockpit door, five guys poked their heads in at the same time, their mouths agape. Their faces were begging for an explanation. But I was in no mood to talk. Not after that hell raising experience. I was still reeling in shock.

Someone handed me a cold bottle of water, lubricating my parched throat. My entire body shook while I took things out of the baggage compartment. One of the guys told me that the visibility was a mere quarter of a mile.

That's when I realized how dangerously close I came to death that night. If it wasn't for the handheld GPS that I borrowed from a pilot friend, I might never have found Berz Macomb airport and lumbered away into the abyss, meeting my maker that night.

Thank God for small favors.

Food for thought: Instead of writing what I learned from this experience, let me turn the tables and open this up for you, the readers, to share what life lessons you got from this story.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Power of Authentic People

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Seth Godin wrote an interesting article, The Scarcity Shortage, where he wrote in part, "So what's scarce now? Respect. Honesty. Good judgment. Long-term relationships that lead to trust."

I'd like to add to that, "authenticity and integrity." A person who genuinely cares about the needs and wants of others are going to increase their "likeability factor" several notches higher. It is this person who will succeed because they recognize that it is human nature to feel good when someone else is genuinely interested in them first.

There's nothing wrong with getting what you want. In fact, ever since you were born, you've been in a perpetual state of wanting something for yourself. It's human nature but the secret is giving what others want FIRST before you get yours. And in my view, authentic people know exactly how to do that.

Just what constitutes an "authentic person"?

1. Great Listening Skills: Everyone, regardless of who they are, want to be acknowledged, appreciated and loved. People want to feel important and respected. How do you give them that? Well, when you are in a conversation with another person, are you truly focusing 100% of your attention on what the person is saying? Or is your brain formulating something to say at the next possible opportunity? Or are your eyes roaming the room, wondering who else just walked in the room? An authentic person's attention is razor sharp, enabling the listener to see the other person's point of view.

2. Fair and Just Treatment of Others: When carrying out your role, regardless of whether it be a mother, business executive, pilot, waitress, teacher or coach, to name a few, you are always dealing with other people. The biggest secret is how you treat them. Do you treat others with respect or are you condescending, especially if they screwed up? I once read a very interesting account of something that happened to famed aerobatic air show pilot, Bob Hoover. He was well known for purposefully shutting down both engines of his plane in various configurations and heights, always landing safely.

One day he was performing at an airshow when 300 feet above the ground, both engines unexpectedly quit. He immediately knew the plane had been misfueled and who had done it. Upon finding the quivering line boy, what did Bob Hoover do? In the eyes of everyone else, he had every right to angrily eschew the line boy because it could have cost his life. Instead, he put his arms around the tear streaked kid and said, "To show you I'm sure you'll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow." Imagine that! That's one truly authentic man because rather than belittling the young kid, he approached it from the point of view of respect and love. Do you think the line boy forever learned his lesson? You decide.

3. Having Integrity: Everyone wants something. But authentic people are conscious of the operative watchword: integrity. They will do the ethical thing even if it means a loss of personal benefits for themselves. Consider a doctor at a major hospital who advises the parent of a small boy (I saw this in a movie but can't remember the name of it), to have major, life-threatening surgery. After much research, the mother learned of a non-invasive treatment available at another hospital several miles away and vigorously sought for his release. The doctor refused, telling the mother she had to go through several legal hurdles for that to happen. One of them involved bringing in another qualified physician from the outside to come in and sign a written statement testifying to the validity of the other treatment. Even though the mother satisfied that requirement, the treating physician refused to budge and fought like crazy to keep the boy there. Eventually, he relented. It turned out that the alternative treatment ended up saving the boy's life. A truly authentic doctor would have seen that possibility rather than blindly serving his hospital's and ultimately his own needs.

4. Ability to Communicate: Growing up deaf made me acutely aware of the importance of communication. I was often left out because I was not always in a position to catch what other people were saying. This often resulted in me being the last to learn about something everyone else already knew about. I hated nothing more than the feeling of being left out in the cold. As a result, I grew up very sensitive to how others might feel in a similar situation, regardless of whether they were hearing impaired or not. Because of that, I make every attempt to keep people in the loop whenever necessary. Business leaders who conscientiously communicate in the open, especially when there is a lot of uncertainty hovering over the future of their employees, end up earning tremendous amount of trust. Rather than hiding behind the cloak of their boardrooms, they step up to the plate and keep people informed as much as possible. Everyone from the top down knows what is going on and are therefore in a position to make informed decisions. Authentic people make themselves valuable because they care enough to keep others in the loop.

5. Willingness to Show Transparency: Public speakers who aren't afraid to stand up on stage and speak from the heart, showing their childlike enthusiasm rather than presenting themselves as flawless packages, often win the hearts of their audiences because it makes them real, just like them. Authentic speakers go into a speaking engagement with the attitude of "I am grateful all these people are spending time with me and I will give them a reason to laugh, cry and otherwise enjoy themselves without worrying how I look." Inauthentic speakers will say, "Well, there's a bunch of jerks out there, I'll just get in there, get it over with and fool them senselessly with my appearance of great success." Speakers who are willing to be transparent win the love and respect of their audiences.

Food for thought: Authentic people make more friends in two weeks by becoming interested in other people than in 2 months by trying to get other people interested in them!
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Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Viewpoint on "Winners and Losers"

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I am a subscriber to my mentor's electronic newsletter that he sends to all kinds of leaders around the world. He is Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines.

In today's newsletter, he had a very interesting thing to say about "winners and losers" that pretty much complement my thinking on this subject. Without further ado, here is the newsletter, reprinted with his express permission. Thanks Howard.

Leadership: "It Isn't Winner Take All"
Volume 2 Number 24
by Howard Putnam

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of, was asked by USA Today about all the competition Amazon faces. He said: "Our premise is there are going to be a lot of winners. It's not winner take all. Other people do not have to lose for us to win."

A very profound statement. Many organizations think they have to put the competition out of business to succeed. Our philosophy at Southwest, when I was there, and years later it still seems to be: "Expand the size of the pie, increase the total market."

I have known Zig Ziglar, the famous motivation speaker for many years. Zig is quoted as saying about the speaking business: "If you help enough other people get what they want,you will get what you want."

When you bring people together and build on partnerships and collaborations, you also build friendships and "everyone wins."

Howard Putnam speaks on leadership, change, transformation, customer service, teams and ethics. The National Speakers Association inducted Howard into the CPAE (Council of Peers Award of Excellence) Speakers Hall of Fame in 2005. He also is accredited as a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional).

He is the former CEO of the highly successful Southwest Airlines and the first CEO to take a major airline, Braniff International, into, through and out of Chapter 11, getting it flying again in less than two years.

Howard authored "The Winds of Turbulence". If you would like more information on how purchase it go to

To check his availability as a keynote speaker or seminar facilitator, go to or call SpeakersOffice at 1-760-603-8110.

Copyright 2007 Howard Putnam Enterprises

U.S. Federal Copyright laws protect all material in this weekly subscription email. It may not be reprinted in any form, or hosted on any Web site without explicit written permission from Howard Putnam Enterprises. That includes publishing it on Web Sites, in ezines, in magazines, newspapers, or any other media, on or offline.

Howard D. Putnam, Speakers Office, Inc. 5927 Balfour Court Suite 103, Carlsbad, CA 92008

People you care the most about can get this publication by sending an email to with SUBSCRIBE PUTNAM in the subject line.
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Importance of Feeling Good

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While you anxiously await the cliffhanger of a story that I am working on as Part II of "The Flight That Almost Killed Me" (don't commit premeditated murder, please, I'm doing my best to work and rework the true story - hang in there!), I stumbled onto a very compelling Law of Attraction experiment over at Made to be Great. It reinforced the importance of finding ways to feel good. Because we have the power to do so. It is just a matter of opening our eyes and looking.

As you know, I am a big proponent on the Law of Attraction. We are 100 percent responsible for our lives. We draw to us people, places and circumstances. The LOA says that if we want good things to happen to us, the key is to FEEL GOOD. Feeling good raises our energy vibration, bringing us what we want for ourselves easily and effortlessly.

Take a look at a few things that make me feel bad and what I'm doing about them:

1. Budgeting does not make me feel good. People will tell you it's a "responsible thing to do" but I digress. It only serves to remind me how much more money I want to have so subconsciously it sets in motion the lack feeling. What happens? I feel bad. So why do it?

2. Eating junk food makes me feel fat and causes me to experience low energy. If I eat enough of that stuff, I start to see results in the mirror, which makes me feel bad. So why eat junk food if you know it's going to make you feel that way?

3. When I was a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch, I was obsessed with monthly sales quotas and if I wasn't close to making them, I felt bad. So what did I do? I stopped looking at them!

4. When I don't go to the gym for even a brief workout, I feel bad. In fact, I feel "guilty." Why? Because I KNOW that if I go, even for a brief period of time, I feel better afterwards yet I don't always do it because I get lazy or let "life" interfere. The solution? I discipline myself and workout even if it's only for a half hour so I can feel better.

5. This one is my favorite. Comparing myself to others make me feel bad. When I do that, I feel inadequate and feel like a failure. So what to do? I stopped comparing myself to other people and instead believe that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and that I will get to where I want to go at the right time, under the right circumstances with the right people. That line of thinking always makes me feel good.

6. In the closet of my hallway there is a container of Tide detergent called Simple Pleasures (Vanilla and Lavender scent). I discovered this when shopping one day and decided to try it. Once I did my first load of laundry with this detergent and realized how great it smelled afterwards (thus making me feel good), I've been using it ever since. Who would ever have thought that a particular brand of detergent would make you feel good? Imagine how good it feels to slide under the freshly laundered bedsheets smelling of vanilla and lavender when I go to sleep at night! That means I feel good every single night when I retire, putting my mind in a good frame of reference regardless of how the day went.

7. What about when you look at yourself in the mirror? I'll bet this one will draw some ire from the "I love myself folks." Do you feel bad when you look at your body in the bathroom? Are your eyes drawn to those love handles that you've grown to detest? Does looking at them make you feel bad? I know it does for me. Instead of staring at those love handles, I now look at other parts of myself. Without being vain or egoistical, I do think I'm a pretty looking guy so I'll say to myself in the mirror, "Hey, dude, you ain't bad looking"! Then I'll wink at myself for good measure. That always makes me feel good.

8. How about the people you hang around with? Do they belittle you under the disguise of "joking around," making you feel bad? Actually, no one can make us feel anything unless we allow them to but suppose you feel uncomfortable or ill at ease around those people? You know, the people who give off "bad vibes." You feel bad in their presence. What to do? I don't hang around them! I'll call up someone whose positive energy makes me feel good and go to a movie or have coffee with that person. My vibrational energy always jumps several octaves higher after taking that step. In fact, I feel a great sense of gratitude when in the company of a good friend who treats me with love and respect.

9. Are you the type who won't buy a nice bottle of cologne/perfume? If you've hit a low snag for some reason, why not give yourself a nice treat, go to the mall and buy yourself your favorite fragrance? Almost every Sunday during church services, someone tells me "You smell good." They're saying that because I usually smack a couple dabs of "Tuscany" (by Aramis) on my neck. Looking in the bathroom cabinet the other day revealed I was running on low so what did I do today? I went to the mall and bought a new bottle. Did that make me feel good? Yep!

10. When I'm down for any reason, I'll jump in the car and drive myself to the park and go for a long walk. I find that when I commune with nature, I come back recharged. I have more energy and I feel better.

In order for the Law of Attraction to work, it's vitally important to feel good. It's up to you and me to bring the "feel good factor" up a couple notches. No one else can do it for us.

When you feel good, you raise your level of vibration and you attract the right people, situations and opportunities to you. People can't help but want to be in your presence because you feel good about yourself. When you speak, they listen to you. When you walk into a room, you don't have to do anything to get anyone's attention. Your "feel good energy" has already done that work for you.

So why not look for ways to feel good and attract more of the same? You deserve it.

Food for thought: What things make you feel good? Are you doing enough of it? Can you think of at least 5 things that make you feel bad and replace them with "feel good activities"?
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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Flight that Almost Killed Me - Part I

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In the winter of 2002, I was working part-time as a line service specialist at Berz Macomb airport to supplement my income in between speaking engagements. It was a fun job towing planes, refueling them and providing customer service for pilots and their passengers. They also had a very generous 50% aircraft rental discount available for the few employees who had a pilot's license.

Rather than booking a commercial flight to fly home for the holidays, I decided to take advantage of the discount and rent myself a plane instead. My choice airplane was a small four-seat Piper Cherokee similar to this one.

In preparation for the 400 mile flight, I had two options. One was to fly south of Detroit, around the bend of Lake Erie, and fly east through the upper portions of Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania before arriving to Schenectady, New York. The other was to fly straight through Canada, saving significant time and fuel.

Although it had been a year, draconian airspace restrictions that were put in place as a result of 9/11 were still being enforced. That meant if I wanted to fly through Canada, it was going to require special planning and coordination since I would be flying through international territory with their own set of rules. This was made complicated by the fact that I would not be maintaining two-way radio communication throughout the flight.

Since I absolutely, positively did not want to take the long way, I enlisted the help of a very resourceful air traffic controller to help me get clearance for flying through Canada. This man had read about me in a magazine article published shortly after I received my pilot's license the year before. He had sent me an congratulatory email introducing himself and offered to help me in any way he could.

This controller, whose name I cannot remember, jumped at the chance to help. He lost no time making a flurry of phone calls to various control towers along the proposed route. After weeks of phone calls, I was eventually cleared to make my first "international" flight home for the holidays.

The winter in 2002 was beset with howling blizzards, low lying ice-filled clouds and poor visibility. Obviously, my intention was to make it home in time for Christmas. After several nail-biting days, the weather finally turned for the better on the day before Christmas. I woke up that morning to a forecast of partly sunny skies and excellent visibility. Excited, I rushed to the airport to prepare for the flight.

After pulling the plane out of the hangar and completing the required pre-flight check, a telephone call was placed to the faceless man who made all this possible. He gave me a four digit code for the transponder box inside the cockpit. Once the transponder was activated with this unique code, my airplane would appear on everybody's radar along the route, with a special note reminding them I was a deaf pilot flying without radio communication capabilities.

After thanking him for his help, I was airborne, finally on my way home to New York. The morning air was gloriously tranquil. It was 7 am and I was passing over homes full of sleeping occupants. The roads below me barely had any traffic for the town had not yet stirred. But I was wide, wide awake.

Since Berz Macomb airport was on the east side of Michigan, it wouldn't be long before the Michigan-Canadian border would come into view. Despite the excellent weather (which gave me one less thing to worry about), my overactive imagination was painting me a stark picture of international proportions.

What if one of the Canadian controllers experienced a technological glitch and could not identify me?

I might be seen as an unwanted intruder in their airspace, causing a flurry of fighter jets to be scrambled after me! It was not a pretty picture and the thought made me somewhat nervous. I tried to push those imaginary thoughts out of my mind but it took several more minutes of flying through Canada before I began to relax and smile for the first time since taking off.

No one was coming after me - everything was going to be okay.

Encouraged, I shoved the throttle forward and began the long climb to 11, 500 feet putting me far above the scattered clouds. There I was, all alone with the sun shining against a brilliant blue backdrop. Even though the temperature outside was bitterly cold at twenty below zero, I was comfortably warm in the cockpit. The possibility of a Canadian fighter jet intercepting me slipped further and further from my mind with each passing mile.

Two hours later, the GPS alerted me that I was approaching the Canadian-New York border but when I tried to find it, I was shocked to the core to discover that the puffy white clouds had transformed themselves into one solid layer, completely blocking my view of the ground! Unfortunately, I had allowed myself to relax a bit too much, never noticing the gradual change taking place several thousand feet below me. It did not look like I could descend without putting myself through the clouds.

My heart quickened again. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake by climbing so high.

It would be another hour and a half before I had to land for refueling. I rifled through copies of weather reports, trying to see whether clear skies were forecast for nearby airports. When I couldn't find anything, I decided to keep motoring on, hoping to see a break in the clouds up ahead.

An hour had past since crossing the border. The handheld color GPS, borrowed from a fellow pilot (which would end up saving my life later), indicated I would be at Penn Yan airport in less than 30 minutes. At that moment, I received the surprise of a lifetime when the clouds magically opened up, similar to the way Moses was reputed to have parted the Red Sea.

Taking no chances, I immediately throttled back to idle and put the plane in an emergency descend configuration. The plane dropped like a hot potato, literally diving at 2,000 feet a minute. When the airport finally came into view, the clouds above me slammed shut!

My heart was yammering like crazy. It was the first time I ever put my emergency descend training to use. And it wouldn't be the first time either.

After landing, I put in a request for fuel and went inside the terminal to call my father. To my surprise, he and my mother were already at the Schenectady County Airport, waiting for me.

"But I won't be there for another hour and a half," I told him.

"There is a surprise waiting for you here," he said. "Hurry up. After you land, we have a 2 hour drive to your sister's house for dinner and we're already behind schedule."

When I pressed him for details on the surprise, he wouldn't elaborate.

Changing the subject, I said, "Dad, what's the weather like there?"

"Its gorgeous with clear, sunny skies. We're looking forward to seeing you!"

"Okay, I'll be there in a little while." And then I hung up.

One more call was made, this time to the controller at Schenectady County airport to inform him that I would be landing within two hours.

"You will be using Runway 28," he advised. Continuing, he said, "when you get here, look for the green light gun signal from the tower for permission to land. Your new transponder code is 4865. And don't forget to make your one-way call on the radio when you're about 10 miles away from the us. Okay?"

"You got it!" I was pumped and could not wait to see my parent's faces after completing the long flight.

Back outside, I rushed through the pre-flight and hurriedly got back in the air, climbing to 11,500 feet again. Since Dad told me the weather was pristine clear in Schenectady, I figured I wouldn't have to worry about going through some clouds on the way down.

Forty-five minutes after takeoff, I put the plane in gradual descend, going down at a leisurely pace of 500 feet a minute. But on the way down, I was once again smacked with the realization that the cloud deck insidiously thickened somewhere between Penn Yan and Schenectady County airports!

I couldn't believe it.

It was happening all over again and definitely not looking good.

This time there was the real possibility that I might have to arrest the descend and lumber around the sky looking for a hole to poke through. Beads of sweat sprinkled across my forehead. It was a struggle to control the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Just what the hell had I gotten myself into?

Keying the mic, I put in a call to the tower, "Schenectady County tower, Piper Cherokee 56136 with deaf pilot on board, 10 miles west, landing Runway 28."

The cloud deck continued to rise up with only a few more miles to go. At the 5 mile way point, the Piper Cherokee was barely skimming the tops of the clouds.

It's now or never.

Without warning, the powers-to-be apparently decided to give me second chance and granted me yet another glorious Moses-style parting of the clouds, creating a hole the size of a gigantic crater! My eyes feasted upon the delicious snow covered scene of Schenectady sliding beneath me. A few miles later, the airport sprung into view. The tower controller was already directing the powerful beam of green light at me, immediately giving permission to land.

Pulling the throttle back further, I pushed the nose down and entered the airport pattern. As I was doing that, the plane unexpectedly hit a pocket of turbulence. The winds had gotten stronger and was cascading up and down the hilly terrain causing unstable air. Despite the stiff winds, I managed to make a safe, if not clumsy landing.

The tower beamed a flashing green signal, instructing me to taxi across an adjacent runway on my way over to the main terminal. In the distance, I spied a line service guy giving me hand signals, directing me to my parking spot.

Imagine my surprise after shutting down the engine when a bunch of people with TV cameras and reporters streamed out of the terminal toward the airplane. My first thought was the controllers in Canada had alerted the authorities about an unidentified airplane flying through their airspace, setting off a terrorist scare. Dancing in my head were visions of headlines screaming, "DEAF PILOT VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL AIRSPACE!"

Then I saw Mom and Dad calmly standing in the midst of all the confusion, smiling at me.

I shot them a quizzical look, wondering what all the commotion was about. Reporters were shouting questions, probably not realizing that I couldn't hear them anyway. It seemed they all wanted to know how a deaf pilot could fly alone for 400 miles without using the radio. Seizing an opportunity to ham it up, I had a blast with them. But since we were pressed for time, I had to cut the interviews short and join my parents for the 2 hour drive to my sister's for dinner.

On the way there, I learned that Mom and Dad had tipped off the press. Up to that point, they hadn't believed that I could become a pilot and this was their way of saying, "Sorry we didn't believe in you before but we're proud of what you've accomplished and want the world to know about it."


To be continued.......Part II
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Monday, August 20, 2007

Bringing Back "The Purple Stapler" Story

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While I was reorganizing and editing the manuscript of "THAT'S RIGHT, STEPHEN!" this evening, I came across the poignant story of the missing purple stapler, written by Miss Dennis, a special education teacher from the Bronx. I am having her story along with two others placed in a special section of the book in honor of teachers everywhere. My gratitude goes to her for giving me permission to reprint it for publication in my first book.

While I was re-reading it, I felt inspired to bring back the tale of the missing purple stapler because I found it so deeply touching. The amount of adversity faced by teachers is staggering. The last time the Adversity University community heard about Miss Dennis was back in October 2006. Now that traffic and the number of subscribers to this site have gone up, I felt it was time to bring back one of my favorite teacher stories and expose it to a wider audience.

Here it is: The Purple Stapler
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It's All in the Eyes of the Beholder

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Reading a post by Steve Olson led me to a set of humorous real estate pictures. You know I love writing about how life is colored by the way we perceive things. The next time you sell a piece of real estate, bear in mind how we all can be looking at the same thing yet perceive it in different ways. Check it out:

I have several new posts coming up, many of which will involve my trademark short stories at Adversity University. One of them will chronicle a flight that almost cut my life short. It will be called "The Flight That Almost Killed Me." It's about what happened when I rented a small plane and flew myself back to Michigan after spending the Christmas holidays with my family in upstate New York. If you've liked my writing style up to this point, I think you'll like this one too.

If you're new to AU and don't yet have a subscription to this blog, go ahead and check out some of the most popular articles and stories in the right sidebar. I've recently added some new ones from the archives so that you can have a general idea of my writing style.

If you like what you read, you are invited to sign up for a free subscription to Adversity University on the top right hand corner of the sidebar so you won't miss the above mentioned story and many more! You have the option of subscribing by email or RSS feed, whichever is easiest for you.

Until the next time, have a great one!
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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Shelfari - Tell Your Friends What You're Reading

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I just learned about this really cool site where you can tell your friends which books you've enjoyed reading so that they can discover what they might have missed in book heaven.

The way it works is that you sign up (free) and then you have the option of listing your friends to join you right off the bat or click onto a link where you can skip that part for now (adding friends) and start building your viritual bookcase. It is very user friendly and easy to use.

Once you start picking books to put on your virtual bookshelf, it becomes a lot of fun. On the shelf are books you've actually read (and I hope enjoyed - otherwise why put them up there?). I plan to add lots of books I've enjoyed over the years and I hope you join me!

Here's the link to Shelfari and start adding me as your friend in book heaven! Come see the books I love and see if we have any in common. Then pick my next book so I can keep on reading.
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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Have You Heard of Christine Kane?

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If you haven't, then you probably will, particularly if you like music or if you're into the blogging world. I'm not sure how I found out about her but she has a great platform appropriately titled "Christine Kane's Blog."

In line with my stories, observations and tips about the importance of finding and maintaining your passions, Christine recently wrote a wonderfully written and inspiring post that I highly recommend for your reading today: "Getting Discovered, Getting Discouraged and Getting a Clue." Don't you love that title? Wish I could come up with something like that!

Have a fun rest of the weekend!
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Friday, August 17, 2007

New Photos

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I recently went and got some photos taken for new business cards, this blog and my professional speaking website. I'm in the process of developing a brand name/image for my speaking and writing business.

This is another way of connecting with you. Have a great rest of the week and thanks for your continuing support!
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What's Your Passion?

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Part of my signature keynote presentation (H.E.A.R. Principle) includes the importance of Having a passion for what you do.

My friend and fellow blogger Phil Gerbyshak wrote a great article outlining his passions, causing me to revisit the timeless topic. I encourage you to check it out here and see if this helps you think a little more deeply about the things you are passionate about.

Previous articles/stories on the subject of having a passion can be seen at the following:

a. How Having a Passion Can Save Your Life
b. Motivation - Where Does it Come From?
c. Trust in Being Brave - The Merrill Lynch Story
d. Trust that Your Passions Will be Supported by the Universe
e. Passion at Southwest Airlines
f. Entertain the Possibilities - Swimming Championships

Food for thought: What is your passion?
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How to Increase Your Likeability Factor and Make More Money

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Yesterday I gave a presentation to members from the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce where I shared the "That's Right, Stephen!" story. At the end, during a question and answer session, I was inspired with an idea for today's post.

Do you consider yourself a likeable person? Tim Saunders, a former Yahoo executive and popular business speaker, made "The Likeability Factor" a household phrase with his best-selling book of the same title. I haven't read it but I heard it was a good read.

While your expertise certainly helps, that's not why people ultimately do business with you. All the advertising in the world might get you some attention in the beginning but it's usually a waste of money in the long run. While a lot of businesses seem to be offering similar products and services, I still stand by my article, "There's No Such Thing as Competition." What makes you stand out is your likeability factor.

People do business with you because they like you. How you relate to others is now more important then ever. If you exude a personality that exhibits any degree of the likeability factor, they will want to work with you not necessarily because your products and services are any more colorful, functional or superior. It's not what you know but how much people like you.

Are you an upbeat individual with a firm handshake and a genuine smile? If so, they will want to be infected with your positive energy. Are you someone who's articulate, a good listener and one who shows empathy for others? Then people will want to do business with you because they are buying YOU. They want a bit of that essence you exude and take a little piece of you home with them.

Look at what happened with Bill Gates. He dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft with buddy Paul Allen. At one point, IBM asked them to create some kind of DOS program. Do you think IBM was asking them to do it because of their "expertise"? They were two young geeks at the time for goodness sake! They actually had no clue on how to do it but IBM commissioned them to create the program anyway because their likeability factor was very high. The rest is history.

Yesterday, I went into the Pollack Studios in South Euclid, Ohio to have some new pictures taken for this blog, my speaking website as well as new business cards. Wendy, the "Goddess of Networking" introduced me to him. The first thing I remember was the way Mr. Pollack shook my hand with both of his and how he looked at me squarely in the eye with a kind smile on his face. Throughout the photo shoot, he asked me questions about my speaking business and genuinely seemed interested in me, taking time to stop what he was doing to listen and respond. He made me feel like the most important person in the world. By the time we were finished, I couldn't help but wanting to continue to do business with Mr. Pollack because his likeability factor was very high. In fact, I liked him so much that I want you to know about him. If you're in need of new photos (whether digitial or print), please stop by his website or contact him (216-381-2001 or drop him an email at JLPPHOTOG(at) You won't regret it.

Could I have gone out and bought myself a digital camera and done it myself? Sure. Piece of cake. With the invention of digital cameras, the photography business has been permanently altered. Investing in a digital camera these days makes almost too easy to bypass a professional photographer's services. But Mr. Pollack has been able to stay in business by differentiating himself through the likeability factor.

Here's my take on what makes your likeability factor go up:

1. You are the real deal. People want to be in the presence of genuine personalities. It's easy to spot a fake person a mile away. You're more willing than most to show the vulnerable side of you because you have no need to provide layers of insulation, pretending that you have "it." People respect real people, not arrogant pricks who pretend to be high and mighty like the anonymous guy on the Internet who calls himself "The Rich Jerk."

2. Your emotional intelligence is very high. You're great at validating other people's feelings and emotions. You really care about others and they sense that the moment you walk into the room.

3. People have no trouble understanding you because you are a conscientious communicator. You keep them informed, even when the news is bad or when you stumble and fall. It's been proven that doctors who fess up their errors are rarely sued for gross incompetence as opposed to those who try to cover up.

4. You have superior listening skills. There's nothing more exciting than to be truly heard. The eyes of likeable people are riveted onto you, making you feel like the most important person in the room.

5. You are comfortable in your own skin, giving others permission to be comfortable with you.

6. You have integrity, making it super easy for people to trust you. Would you buy from someone you didn't trust?

If you have the likeability factor, you'll have no trouble doing brisk business. People will be drawn to you like magnet because you are perceived to be a winner. They end up becoming your human advertisers, spreading the word because your likeability factor is quite high.

How cool is that?!?

Food for thought: How is your likeability factor today?
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Monday, August 13, 2007

Influential Bloggers Take Notice of Adversity University

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Some influential bloggers are starting to take notice some of my writings here at Adversity University, which means my stories are starting to spread. Because you are loyal and have stuck with me while I tried to find my writing niche, I think and hope you'll be proud of me. Take a look:

Vern, co-founder of The Good Blogs and writer of "The Idea Dude" was recently a guest blogger over at Liz Strauss's widely read blog. In an article entitled "Connecting the Dots with the Idea Dude," he mentioned both "Debilitating Habits of Comparing Ourselves to Others" and "The Price You Pay for Not Accepting Yourself." Links to both can be found in Vern's guest column. Thank you Vern! And of course, thank you Liz for allowing Vern to be your guest blogger at SOB.

Then I discovered Laura Young of "The Dragon Slayer's Guide to Life" accepted TWO of my stories to the "Carnival of Courage," a rare feat. Apparently Laura is well known for not accepting more than one piece from any particular author but she did exactly that with "Three Words" (about my fifth grade teacher who forever changed my life with three words) and "Trust in Being Brave -- The Merrill Lynch Story." You can see her write-up here with links to those stories. Thank you Laura!

Food for thought: When you are on purpose and continue to work on your passion (which for me is writing, motivational speaking, flying, etc), the world will be drawn to you like a magnet.
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How Having a Passion Can Save Your Life

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When I first started Adversity University a little over a year ago, I touched on the topic of having a passion for life, for the work that we do and how important it is to our overall well being. Because then otherwise, what's the point? How else can we truly be happy, productive and authentic human beings if we hate our jobs or whatever it is that we do on a daily basis?

We often discover, mostly by trial and error, that it's up to us to find and nurture our innermost passions and the only way we can do that is by taking action toward that end. Taking small steps (or big steps if you have the courage to do so) will unlock the wheels and get you rolling in the direction you were meant to go. It takes courage to do that. A lot of courage.

This morning I stumbled on to a bone-chilling story that is an absolute must-read for everyone. It is about a man who counted himself among thousands of listless, unsmiling faces on the commuter train, going to and from a job he had absolutely no passion for. Not only is it well written but it has a shocker of an ending that I had no clue was coming. Without further ado, here it is: Pursue the Passion.

After I read that, I decided to learn more about the people behind Pursue the Passion blog and found a short autobiography by a young man who started a bus tour, going around the country and interviewing people about their life's passions. It brought tears to my eyes and fired me up this morning. I think it will do the same for you: Brett Farmiloe’s Autobiography.

They are accepting stories about your experiences in pursuing your life's passions. Go on over there and share a piece of yourself with them. You could inspiring others from around the globe.

Until next time, have a great beginning of the week!
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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Debilitating Habit of Comparing Yourself to Others

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The other day I was doing some research in connection with the Law of Attraction when I stumbled onto a site containing a motivational movie similar to "The Secret," consisting of the nation's top motivational speakers, authors and mentors.

While flipping through the photo gallery featuring those in the movie, I was shocked to see someone I once met several years ago when he was just starting out as a young speaker. There he was in full color, mingling among the nation's top speakers. My ego immediately tried to bombard me with thoughts like, "Why aren't you in that movie yourself?" "Shouldn't you be doing just as well or better than that guy?" "What does he have that you don't'?"

It was an unbelievable setback because it is my nature to celebrate the success of others because I am genuinely happy for them, knowing that if they can achieve success, so can I. But I was caught with my pants down. I had to pull up and step away for a few minutes. Comparing myself to this guy was pummeling my stomach like crazy. It did not feel good. That's exactly what your ego wants you to feel.

After stepping away, it dawned on me that from time to time, I tend to compare myself to the success of others and if I'm not careful, this line of thinking can end up dousing the flame of desire within me.

The only saving grace for any of us is the realization that each and every one of us is exactly where we are supposed to be, right now at this very moment. We each have a particular destiny that we came here to achieve and how we arrive there is a unique process, designed just for us. While we do have control over how we think, speak and behave, not everyone has the same capabilities, level of awareness, courage or skill. Some of us take longer than others. So what?

What's interesting is a lot of people look at me and say, "Wow, he's accomplished so much" or "He's pretty famous, I've seen him on television, in the newspaper and his name is all over the Internet." Some of them compare themselves to me, making themselves green with envy. On the flip side, here I am thinking: "Why are they are comparing themselves to me? Don't they realize that there are hundreds of others who are doing far better than me?"

Isn't it interesting how the perceptions we have of ourselves can radically differ from those who are looking from the outside? I'll say!

How can we avoid debilitating habit of comparing ourselves to others?

1. Don't compare yourself to anyone because they are on a different path.
2. Believe in your heart that you are right where you're supposed to be at this very moment.
3. Give yourself a fighting chance. You will learn step by step, over time, what you need to do in order to get to the next level. There's no hurry.
4. Just focus on yourself, your capabilities and be happy with how much you've accomplished so far. There are a lot of people who are worst off than you are.
5. Be grateful for everything that's happened in the past. It made you who you are today. Isn't that a cause for celebration?
6. Finally, forgive yourself if you feel you wasted precious time with non-productive activities lately. What's the point of beating yourself up over it? What's done is done. Each day is a new chance to begin anew.

Food for thought: What's the hurry? Can you accept that you are exactly where you're supposed to be right now, at this very moment? And that you will get to where you want to go if you give yourself a fighting chance?
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Law of Attraction is NOT

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I am a big believer in the Law of Attraction and have written extensively about my own personal experiences in this subject. I've written about the power of visualization, the law of giving and receiving, changing of the mindset to think and perceive things differently, the power of faith in the unseen and much more.

What I haven't done was to offer a list of things that it is not. So here goes:

1. The Law of Attraction is NOT about sitting on your duff, hoping things will materialize magically. It's taking immediate action when your intuition prompts you to do so.

2. The Law of Attraction is NOT about manipulation. For instance, trying to changing other people's behavior - only God can change people, not you. The only person you can change is yourself. When you change yourself for the better, others can't help but notice and behave favorably. This is what happened with my experience with "Harry the Bank Boss."

3. The Law of Attraction is NOT about luck - it requires a bit of work on your part: in order for you to attract what you want, you need to look at how you think and perceive the world around you. Oftentimes it requires a change in the inner mindset to match your outer desires. For example, if you want more money but you consistently think rich people are devious or do evil things to make money, guess why you aren't attracting any?

4. The Law of Attraction is NOT about living in "La-La" land - sure you can dream, I've done it all my life but there's also reality. YOUR reality. Dealing with what you've got in front of you and balancing it with your dreams for the future.

5. The Law of Attraction is NOT about coincidences. There is no such thing because you are 100 percent responsible for the life you're currently leading. What's going on in your mind (i.e. your belief system, your thoughts, feelings and emotions) are being reflected in reality. If you aren't happy with what you've got, then it's up to you to change your inner thoughts to match your outer reality.

6. The Law of Attraction does NOT work for closed-minded people. If you are skeptical, doubtful or unwilling to explore the possibilities, it will not work for you. People who are skeptical tend to sabotage things, putting them right back where they started because they were not willing to be open minded in the first place. It's about the willingness to increase your level of awareness and watch for spiritual signs, giving you confirmation like what happened with the butterfly who visited me on that one day: "Divine Confirmation."

7. The Law of Attraction is NOT for those who think they can achieve their dreams alone. We all need help, encouragement from like-minded people. For the law of attraction to work, it's imperative to find yourself mentors, form a team of supporters who believe in your dreams or mastermind with these people. Hang around with people who are far more successful than you and ask them to help you spot opportunities that will lead you to your dreams. For more information, see "The Importance of Surrounding Yourself with the Right People."
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

8 Random Facts about Stephen Hopson

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Inspired by Phil Gerbyshak's blog post, I thought it would be neat to share 8 random things about myself with you in an effort to deepen the bond that we already share. If you have a website or a blog, I encourage you to do the same with your community. (Photo Credit: Patty Barratt).

1. It wasn't until I was 3 years of age when my hearing disability was accidentally discovered by none other than my grandmother who was at the house helping Mom one day.

2. I love the smell of campfire smoke and cut grass. If I see someone mowing the lawn or burning something in their backyard, I'll roll down the window of my car to take a good whiff of it.

3. My nickname in high school was "Hoppy Toad."

4. While in elementary school, I was failing at math. Several years later I became a stockbroker at a major Wall Street firm handling millions of dollars worth of investments for my clients. Ironic twist of fate. But I admit I still sometimes count on my fingers when it comes to simple arithmetic.

5. After I got my first job as a teenager working at a gas station, I was fired shortly thereafter for goofing off with the boss's son. Not wanting my parents to know about this, I hid in the woods behind my house every day for a full week, pretending to go to work.

6. I rode a bike from Boston to New York, a 550 mile trek over 5 days to raise money for charity.

7. My favorite brand of cigar is Montensino Toro. Having a cigar out on my porch or by a large body of water helps me think.

8. I rarely use the alarm clock. If I wake up past 7 am, it feels like I wasted the day already.

Food for thought: How about you? What are 8 random things people might find interesting about you?
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Friday, August 03, 2007

Reaffirmation from the Universe

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While I believe that there is no such thing as a mistake but rather a series of experiences, that doesn't stop me from wanting divine confirmation, reassuring me that I made the right decision with something I want to accomplish. Don't we all wish we knew what the ramifications of our decisions would be like, ahead of time, especially when the outcome was uncertain?

No matter how many times you've taken a chance and went with your instincts, you're still going to experience some level of "wonderment" (I just made that up), wondering whether the decision you made was going to lead you down the path you envisioned for yourself. Ever been there? Me too.

Many of you are aware of events that led up to opening the manuscript of THAT'S RIGHT STEPHEN! to the readers of Adversity University for feedback. This is the result of a decision I made a week ago or two after a friend introduced me to someone who recently self-published and did a very nice job of it. The outcome of that meeting inspired me to push through my fears and make a firm decision to self-publish, rather than waiting for some literary agent to see the potential of the book.

When I got home after the meeting, I was so pumped up and went out to the balcony to have a cigar to celebrate (I'm always looking for an excuse to light up). I had with me a notebook and pen along with a glass of ice cold water. While I was enjoying the cool summer breeze, contemplating the turn of events, I turned and looked at a large green plastic chair that was propped against the wall on the far right side of the balcony. I was reminded of a silent conversation I once had several weeks earlier, "God, show me that you are watching over me. I would like to see you sit on that chair sometime."

Suddenly I was visited by the most beautiful blue butterfly. It swung right by me, almost touching my forehead. It startled me at first because I hadn't seen it come my way. When I realized what it was, I knew I was experiencing a close encounter of the spirit kind!

Intrigued, I watched it for several minutes. It flew around the vicinity of the porch, flying to and from where I was sitting. It seemed to be singing, flying gracefully in a carefree manner. Satisfied that this must be the place where things were happening, it proceeded to land right on that chair! Mesmerized, I stared at it, trying my hardest to lobby forth telepathic thoughts. It responded by flapping its wings.

Then it flew away. Thinking it was gone for good, I went inside and went straight to my computer in the other room. As I was powering it up, the butterfly came right back and landed on the screen of my bedroom window, a mere 2 feet from where I was sitting!

It reminded me of an experience Wayne Dyer once had when he was out for a morning stroll on the beach in Hawaii where he maintains a home. He had an even better story to tell. A butterfly actually landed on the palm of his hand and sat there for several minutes! Wayne somehow managed to take a snapshot of it and put it on the cover of one of his books.

Afraid that the clacking sounds of my keyboard would scare it away, I simply sat there, transfixed at its beauty. Sensing an opportunity to really see what it looked like, I inched closer and saw that it was washing its hands. Gratitude washed over me like a tidal wave. While I wasn't exactly gushing tears, my eyes got a little wet.

Rubbing my eyes, I realized I had better get going with the work that was ahead. Slowly and tentatively, I pulled up the manuscript and began to work. CLACK, CLACK, CLACK. To my surprise and delight, the noise didn't bother the butterfly. It seemed to be telling me in a matronly tone of voice, "Please continue on with your work while I wash my hands for supper darling." For the next twenty minutes, my eyes alternated between the keyboard, the computer screen and the gorgeous blue butterfly. I was in heaven.

While I was working, I was also preoccupied with the arrival of a friend who was due to be stopping by any minute for a brief visit. From where I was sitting, I could see people coming and going, in and out of my apartment building. As soon as I saw him arrive, I got up to buzz him in, thinking the mere act of getting out of my chair would scare it away. It didn't.

Making my way over to the door, imagine my surprise when I saw out of the corner of my eye the butterfly making a textbook landing on the balcony! Apparently it was not done with me. It must have sensed that I was no longer sitting at my desk and wanted to spend a few more minutes of quality time, making sure I knew this wasn't some random fluke.

Then it flew out of sight, never to be seen again.

Since that fateful visit, a number of doors began to swing open including the wonderful response I got from the Adversity University community with offers to help with the manuscript among other things including but not limited to an unexpected offer to send the final version to a well known publisher for consideration!

If the visit by the butterfly and the resulting outpour of assistance from the AU community wasn't divine confirmation, then I don't know what it was. But I do know this:

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