Just like in a cafe, we talk about everything. Nothing heavy. Just talk over a cup of coffee.

Monday, March 19, 2012


After ten years of working for a prestigious Wall Street bank and slamming into a glass ceiling, I vehemently said "Enough!" If I was going to have an inspiring, compelling life and go beyond a clock-punching, nine-to-five job, I knew I had to make the decision to create it and shift gears.

I began looking. I'd never let my deafness shortchange my dreams. I wasn't about to start now. I scanned through The New York Times in search of new opportunities. My eyes were drawn to an advertisement in the back. A financial giant was looking to hire more stockbrokers. I thought, I can do that! With great excitement, I called a few people and made an appointment to see a New York City branch vice president.

On the day of my appointment, I was terribly sick with a cold and 101° fever that threatened to keep me in bed. Yet, I knew I couldn't let this golden opportunity slip away, so I showed up for the interview and spoke with vice president for over three hours. I thought he was surely going to hire me on the spot. Instead, he instructed me to meet with twelve of his top stockbrokers for further interviews. I was floored!

But., then maybe that's a good sign, I thought, trying to rationalize his decision.

During the next five months, every one of the twelve professionals discouraged me from becoming a stockbroker.

"You're better off in a safe 9-to-5 bank job," they proclaimed. "Eighty percent of newcomers fail within their first year," they added. "You have no investment experience."

"You won't make it."

The more attacked my dream, the more my stomach tightened. I could hardly breathe. I realized then that I would have to "fake it to make it."

My final interview was scheduled on a cold, blustery January day on Fifth Avenue. Five minutes into the meeting, it was obvious the vice president didn't know what to do with me.

I handed him a 25-page marketing report on how I would build my business. I hoped this would convince him that I was indeed the man for the job. But, it didn't. Noticeably uncomfortable, he nervously played with a paper clip and pretended to read my report. Apparently, he wasn't confident that I could perform the job. I felt a tremendous opportunity was about to slip through my fingers.

So I looked at him straight in the eye and captured his attention.

"Sir," I said confidently. "If you don't hire me, you'll never know just how much I could've done for this firm." When I heard my own brazen words, I panicked. My God, I thought, what have I done? Can I really back that up?

I nervously waited. The seconds seemed like minutes and the minutes, like hours.

He finally spoke.

"Okay, you've got the job!" he announced.

I stood up and was about to leave when he added, "On one condition."

My heart sank.

"First," he said, "you must first resign from the Bank of New York effective two weeks from today and enroll in our three-month training program. Then, you have to take the Series 7 stockbroker exam. And, you must pass it on the FIRST try." He drove home his final point, "If you fail even by one point - you're out!"

My mouth went dry. Inward, I shook uncontrollably. I choked at the prospect of taking a huge leap of faith into the unknown. I stood to lose everything!

Then, captivated by this ultimate risk taking opportunity and by a courage that I knew would forever change my future, I swallowed hard and spoke confidently, "I'll take it." Little did I know the impact of that split-second decision.

As instructed, I cut my lifeline to the Bank and leapt into unproven waters.

After three months of training, it was time for me to take the three-hour exam. The test site was on Madison Avenue, a short distance from where I would be working, if I passed the test. I took the elevator to the seventh floor and signed in. From the reception area, I could see the test room through the glass partition. It was full of computers, all deliberately spaced in several rows. The room was sparsely furnished with the barest of essentials of scrap paper, several sharpened pencils and uncomfortable-looking chairs.

The exam proctors led me to my assigned computer. One of the most important tests of my life was about to begin. They gave me a signal to go ahead. I was extremely nervous but as the test progressed, I felt increasingly confident. Three hours passed by surprisingly fast.

It was time for the final score - the computer would calculate it and flash it on the screen. I sat there sweating and staring at the computer that held the key to my future. I was positive someone could hear my heart beating. The screen blinked on and off with the message, "Your scores are being tabulated by the computer, please wait."

The wait seemed like hours. The scores were finally displayed.

I had passed! I let out an audible sigh of relief.

Since that day, I've never looked back. I exceeded not only my own expectations but also those of the manager who took a chance and hired me on that fateful day. Before being promoted himself, he was around long enough to witness my personal sales soar 1,700%, hand me several sales awards and see me on CNN.

That was four years ago. I am now a inspirational speaker and author.

All because I took a chance, instead of hiding safely behind my deafness.

My experiences confirmed the truth of Thoreau's words when he said, "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he had imagined, he will meet success unexpected in common hours."

That's what the power of making a split second decision did for me, a deaf stockbroker-turned motivational speaker/author!

Copyright © 1999 Stephen J. Hopson

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