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Is it me, or does it seem like everyone is breaking up these days? In the past two months I know at least six couples who have just ended their marriage, engagement or relationship. It’s sad.
The past few weeks I have received numerous emails from readers asking if everything is okay with Amber Airplane and me. They’ve notice that lately she hasn’t appeared in many newsletters. As you may know, Amber and I have a lot of history together. We’ve been dating for four years, gone on countless incredible trips, and shared so many special memories -- especially the engagement proposal. Unfortunately, these days Amber and I aren’t doing that great.
Our first real break came this past Christmas (that’s why we weren’t together over the holidays). Looking back, all I remember is being so upset sitting in the Cleveland airport, knowing Amber was only 15 minutes away visiting her family, and I wasn’t going to see her. As I waited for the shuttle to Erie, PA, where I spent the holiday with my sister and father, my stomach was killing me. Fortunately, we got back together 10 days later.
Our latest break up came about a month ago. It’s a long story, but Amber would probably say it’s because I’m selfish and work too much. It appears I haven’t been the best boyfriend -- and she’s right.
But the all-time low in our relationship took place last week, when Amber came home with moving boxes. As the shelves grew empty, so did my heart. I don’t know what’s going to happen between us -- only time will tell -- but this week’s “Where’s Johnny Jet?” adventure might have a lot to do with our future. So let’s hope everything works out for the best.
The only people in our lives who knew how bad things were between us were our family members and close friends. One who did was my brother Frank. He loves Amber (as do all my family members), and doesn’t want to see her take anyone’s last name but ours.
Frank also loves Anthony Robbins (the motivational speaker you see in infomercials late at night, and who has a mysterious way of sucking you in). If that doesn’t ring a bell, did you see the movie “Shallow Hal”? He was the giant stuck in the elevator with Hal.
A few days ago, Frank called me up and said “I just bought us tickets to a Tony Robbins seminar this weekend in Chicago.” I told Frank I wasn’t going to a Tony Robbins seminar. He said, “Trust me. It will help with everything in your life -- especially your relationship with Amber.” I reluctantly agreed. After all, Frank had plopped down a good chunk of change -- plus I figured this could be my last chance at salvaging my four years with Amber. What did I have to lose?
I quickly learned that Tony’s seminars aren’t just three-hour speeches – they are intense four-day events. He offers all kinds of seminars on a variety of topics, all over the world. This one was called “Unleash The Power Within.” It’s described on his website as “about creating breakthroughs, moving beyond fears and limiting beliefs, accomplishing goals and realizing true desires, turning dreams into reality, creating fulfilling relationships, and modeling the strategies of peak performers to produce a quantum difference in your life. At UNLEASH THE POWER WITHIN you will vanquish whatever is holding you back from taking action. As the ultimate physical metaphor for your newly emerging mastery, you will storm barefoot across a bed of glowing coals - and that is only day one!” Sounds good, huh?
In case you don’t know, Tony has an incredible following -- from heads of states to pimps. In fact, you probably know someone who is a huge Tony Robbins believer. It seems like when people attend his seminars, their lives change for the better. Here’s one example of his impact: Over 350 people came to this seminar from all over, just to volunteer and give back at Tony’s incredible event. Most of his volunteers are very successful men and women, including doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.
Because the seminar was in Chicago, I had to fly there for the second time in a few days. That wasn’t a problem, since flights to Chicago are fairly cheap (even last minute) and it’s such a great city. Unfortunately, this time my flight was delayed by weather problems in the Chicago area (a real shocker, huh?).
Instead of taking the El train (Blue line) downtown for $1.75, which would’ve taken 25-40 minutes (there are A and B trains, the latter making all stops), I acted like a rookie and took a taxi at rush hour. Clearly I was ready for the seminar -- as you can see, I was not thinking straight. The taxi took an hour and cost me (hold on to your chair) $44. Each time a train zipped pass my cab I just shook my head in disbelief.
I finally arrived at McCormick Place. I’ve been there many times before, for trade shows. The place is right on Lake Michigan, and is enormous. In fact, it’s North America’s largest exhibition and meeting center, with 2.2 million square feet available (they’re expanding, too). Along with Navy Pier, they contribute more than two billion dollars to the state economy. Impressive, huh? McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago; tel.: 312-791-7000.
Because my flight was delayed, I was 90 minutes late meeting my brother and our friend Rick at registration. I quickly dropped my bags with the bellman at the Hyatt Hotel, which is attached to McCormick Place (It costs $2 a bag if you’re not a guest), and walked to registration.
Along the way I met one of Tony’s energetic volunteers. She was from Minnesota, and more than happy to escort me the quarter mile to the sign-in tables. She asked, “Is this your first time at a Tony Robbins event? I said yes, and told her how my brother and friend are big fans of Tony’s. I added that they left a message on my cell that they were saving a seat for me in the first row. She said, “Well then, you must be a V.I.P.” I said “That sounds good to me,” with a smile.
There were 10 people in line at the check-in. My new friend announced to the volunteers working behind the desk that she had a VIP who hadn’t yet checked in. I felt uncomfortable, because she had me cut the line. That feeling intensified when they couldn’t find my badge in the VIP pile. It turned out I wasn’t a VIP after all. I was an Executive, which is between VIP and General Admission.
There are three levels to a Tony Robbins event. The general level for this one cost $595; the executive level was $995, the VIP level $1495. Platinum level is also available, but it’s limited to a few people who spend $65,000 a year. They get two reserved seats, front row and center, to all of Tony’s seminars around in the world.
The VIP level guarantees you an up-close seat if you show up every day on time. A big advantage of being a VIP (besides one free coaching session with a Tony Robbins instructor) is that VIPs are let into the room before everyone else. Everyone walks as fast as they can to the front. Some people run (ahem, Rick), so volunteers are posted in the aisles to slow people down. But there were people who actually hurdled the rows of chairs like Olympian Al Joyner.
Ten minutes after admitting the VIP’s, they let the people wearing Executive badges enter. A few minutes after that the doors opened for the General ticket holders. Once you have your seat it’s yours for the rest of the day (unless you get up and forget to leave any belongings on it, or don’t have someone save it for you). However, at the start of each day you must repeat the process to find a new seat. If you’re late at the start of any day you’ll be way in the back -- even if you are a VIP.
The attendance at this event was 3,500. That’s the same number of people who went to my college, Loyola Marymount University. It’s mind-boggling how many people were there -- and how well behaved they were.
The seminar is not some boring speech. It’s a major production -- similar to a rock concert. Tony Robbins’ crews bring in a huge stage, all kinds of lighting, four gigantic TV screens, serious woofers (speakers) and a camera crew. They also have dancers.
When I arrived I walked into the room, a sea of people. I could barely see Tony on stage, but he was so loud and clear that if I closed my eyes I would’ve thought he was standing next to me. I stood on my tiptoes, squinted -- and sure enough I could see Frank and Rick sitting in the front row (on the aisle) to the left of the stage. A volunteer came up to me and asked if I needed some help. I said that I just arrived, and my brother saved a seat for me in the front row. (I later found out that you aren’t supposed to save seats, but people do). The man looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Go for it.” (He meant I had a pair of big ones for walking all the way up there.)
I hoped he would escort me down, because it felt uncomfortable walking in front of a lot people. When I finally got to the front I didn’t even say hi to Frank or Rick. I just wanted to sit down, but I didn’t see an empty seat. I got down on one knee so I wouldn’t block people’s views, and gave Frank a look that said “Please say you have a seat for me, because I really don’t want to be embarrassed by walking all the way back through the crowd.” Frank read my mind, and signaled with his eyes to the row behind him. Phew: an open seat!
Despite my doubts, Frank was right about Tony. He truly is an amazing person. Not only is he brilliant, but he is an incredible speaker who tells fascinating stories. He speaks for hours and hours, with so much energy. (Plus he’s hilarious, and loves to swear.) The first day he spoke from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. They only breaks came when we ran outside to check out the coals burning, and at midnight when it was time for the firewalk. I really encourage you to see him. You will not be disappointed (scroll down for sign up info).
What’s the firewalk? At every UPW, Tony teaches people how to walk on fire. He does it as a metaphor: He believes that if you can walk on fire successfully, you can do anything successfully). I estimate that at least 99 percent of the people walked the hot burning coals (about 8 feet long). Everyone paired up with someone we didn’t know. My partner was a nice guy, and we encouraged each other to do the walk.
Tony preps you on what to say and do when you walk. You walk at normal speed, but you need to be confident and look up. You also keep repeating the words “cool moss, cool moss…”. Before it was my turn I got a little nervous, because after 10 people walked in front of me the leaders threw on more hot coals -- to make sure it was nice and hot (just my luck). It was very dark, and as everyone walked around chanting I felt like I was in the first Scooby Doo movie (you know, when all the visitors on the island were in a trance).
Just before it was my turn to walk my partner grabbed my sides, saying “You can do it!” That threw off my concentration, and as I walked over the coals I was thinking did he just violate me. When I took my mind off of “cool moss,” I briefly felt how hot they were. Ouch! Luckily I snapped back into the right state of mind. When I was done I quickly wiped my feet, and felt the cold water the volunteers sprayed on. I did it! It was a real accomplishment! I still can’t believe I walked over 1200 – 2000 degree coals. (My feet didn’t burn, but the edges were black from the soot).
What’s even more amazing is that by the end of the seminar no one was even talking about the firewalking. There was so much more going on -- that’s how intense and rewarding the seminar was.
After the first night, we were so tired. I asked Frank where we were staying, and he said “Nowhere yet.” I wasn’t even surprised, because I’m used to Frank traveling this way. It was 1 a.m., and we didn’t have a hotel room! The Hyatt was sold out and the taxi line must’ve been an hour long, so instead of waiting we walked four blocks to find a taxi. We got denied by the Hilton (sold out), and then accepted at the hotel where Ricky was staying: the Congress Plaza Hotel. The hotel has a great location (Michigan Avenue), fair prices (Frank paid $119), but it wasn’t a place I want to stay at again. Walking into the lobby felt like stepping out of a time machine into the 1950s. I can’t describe the feeling, but if you walk into the lobby, look around and take a whiff you’ll know what I’m talking about. The smell alone tells the story. The worst part of our room (besides the depressing lighting) was that we had no hot water, and our TV was from the ‘70s. The coolest amenity was our room key: It had a map of Chicago attached to it. Congress Plaza Hotel & Convention Center, 520 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago; tel.: 312-427-3800.
At that point we were starving. The only thing available was delivery, but it would’ve taken at least 40 minutes. Instead we took a taxi to the first place we could find that was still open. We finally found a place that was serving until 2 a.m.: Miller’s Pub. It was located five blocks from our hotel, in the section called the Loop. Even though it was dark, smoky and felt like the 1930’s, I really enjoyed it. The place had charm. They also had every old-time celebrity picture on the wall. I had a tasty turkey dinner, and we all gulped down our food like we were hungry wolves. Frank and I were so tired we looked like zombies, but Ricky -- the man who has been to more Tony Robbins seminars than anyone I know -- was still full of energy. You go, Ricky! Miller's Pub, 134 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago; 312-263-4988.
The next day we were up at 7:30 a.m. After cold showers, we checked out of the hotel. Fortunately it was the weekend (all the businessmen checked out), so we scored a room at the Hyatt Regency over by McCormick Place. This hotel was not only much more convenient but far nicer, including the views. It was also more expensive ($179 a night), so luckily Frank was paying. What I didn't like was that they charged Frank $20 a day to have a second person in the room. Is that the biggest scam or what? Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, 2233 S. Martin Luther King Dr., Chicago; tel.: 312-567-1234.
We learned from the day before not to show up to the seminar without drinks and snacks. To save money Frank had the taxi driver stop at a Jewell Osco grocery store so we could stock up. We bought a mini-cooler, so we could be like all the other smart attendees. You should’ve seen Frank and me trying to use the self-service checkout kiosk for our very first time. It’s incredible how they work, but Frank and I wouldn’t make very good cashiers. It took us double the time because we couldn’t get any of the bar codes to read on the first scan.
I won’t go into the details of the next three days, except to say they were amazing. I met so many incredible people from all over the world. I heard there were people from 90 different countries (one of my partners was from Hong Kong). I learned so many skills that I am already doing things I never thought I could or would do.
Tony is an unbelievable speaker, and he has so much energy. On Saturday we went from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., with one 90-minute break. Sunday’s schedule was 9 a.m.-1 a.m. (we had a 90-minute break around 5). Sunday was Tony’s last day speaking. Other professionals came in Monday to discuss nutrition. That session went from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The days went by quickly. They are so much fun (which is the best way to learn). To break things up, Tony had us high five or hug 10 people. He also had everyone dancing – everything from soul (hard for me to do) to dancing like monsters (easy for me).
I missed Monday’s event. I got up late, was hungry, had breakfast and missed getting a good seat. Also, Frank and Rick were not attending the nutrition seminar because they have gone in the past, and they were heading home. I wanted to get home too, because I was anxious to try out some of my new techniques—especially with Amber Airplane.
On the way to the airport I realized how exhausted we all were. Frank and Rick both looked like they had been hit by a Mack truck. We went to the airport with a guy named Bobby, who runs the Affordable Transportation car service. He picked us up in a Ford Taurus. He was a nice guy, and charged us a flat rate of $38. But he had to be overwhelmed with three guys who just came from a Tony Robbin’s seminar. Rick kept saying, “Bobby, you could have an incredible business! You just need to start wearing a uniform and have a nice sign to hold up at the airport.” Frank and I were in the back seat going, “Yeah Bobby, listen to Ricky!” Affordable Transportation, tel.: 773-615-6146.
Rick and I were flying out of the same terminal, so we hung out together at ORD. As Rick was making phone calls by his gate I checked my email for 10 minutes at Laptop Lane. Laptop Lanes can be found in nine U.S. airports: Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, New York (LGA), Salt Lake City, Dallas (DFW), Cincinnati, Oakland and Philadelphia.
They have two locations at ORD, both in Terminal 1. One is upstairs by Gate B6; the other is downstairs near the baggage claim door and the escalator to the B gates. These Laptop Lanes are pretty nifty, and really do offer an oasis to do some work. They’re also pricey -- unless you take advantage of all their services or your company pays for it. Each room is like a mini-office with a PC (or you can use your own laptop). You get high-speed internet, free use of a fax machine, a printer and continental U.S. phone calls. It costs $5 for the first 5 minutes, then 65 cents for each additional minute. The charge for a half hour is $21.25; an hour is $40.75. Tel.: (773) 894-3100.
When I got back to the gate I didn’t see Rick. I walked further into the gate area, and found him passed out across the seats. Hah! Tony finally got to him. One of the things I learned from Tony was that every night when your head hits your pillow you should be completely exhausted, knowing you lived that day to the fullest and gave it your all. We definitely did live life to its fullest this past weekend. And I look forward to doing it every day from now on – hopefully, with Amber Airplane. (I'll tell you all about her reaction next week).
The next UPW is in San Jose, CA, from Aug 13-16. I’ll send a contingent of friends and family, and if I’m not away on a trip I will be there too. For more information, or to enroll, please call my Personal Representative, Chris Hendrickson, at 1.800.898.8669 ext. 6272 or at email@example.com. If you call by June 7th for the San Jose, CA event, you can get a free upgrade on your seating which is a $300 savings.
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Top five off-peak destinations for summer 2004 |
You may believe that summer is the most expensive time to travel, and in many cases, you're right: Europe fares double over winter and spring rates and stratospheric gas prices make U.S. road trips a pricey proposition. But luckily, it's not high season everywhere, and if you know where to go, you can avoid high travel prices and crowds on your vacation. Click Here To Read Article
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