Monthly Archives: May 2012

On My Semester at Sea Journey, I Will Remember When…

Three weeks ago, I returned from spending four months traveling around the world with Semester at Sea. I’ve finally got my land legs back and I’ve cleared most of the foam from my sea-clogged brain, meaning it’s at least more likely that I will keep the time and day of the week straight. Though I’m an author, ghostwriter and editor, and I teach classes and write books about the value of writing our most meaningful life stories, I didn’t write one word about this experience while I was gone.  I can argue that I was too busy keeping up with my primary job on the shipboard community: figuring out how to be a long-term substitute teacher/one-term home schooler for my 10-year-old son. Or I could admit that I simply decided I would wait…until the experience was over.

When I presented a seminar to lifelong learners on the ship, I suggested that they might ease themselves into writing about their own experience by responding to the simple prompt “I will remember when…” So I’ll follow my own advice here.

On this Semester at Sea trip I will remember when…Peterson stopped his cab at the outdoor market and came back with a large bunch of baby bananas and handed them to us in the back seat. It was a kind, uprompted gesture by our private guide for a second day of exploring the Caribbean island that tourism has passed by because of too many mountains and too few sandy beaches. He must have spent 10 minutes finding the bananas that were riope enough to eat in that moment, and I had consumed most of them within an hour.

As it turned out, this was only the first of more than a dozen spontaneous stops Peterson would make in the next three hours as he navigated the rough, mountanous terrain in his rundown taxi. Peterson, a 60-something native who explained to us that Peterson was his first name with a last name we couldn’t pronounce and might as well not try, knew this island from growing up outside the city in those lush and beautiful places where seemingly everything that could be eaten, used for herbs, or admired for its beauty grew in abundance. Peterson was not content to tell us what we were seeing around us. He was often compelled to stop and show us. He would come to a halt right in the narrow road, leaving us to wonder how cars approaching from behind or the opposite direction would avoid ramming us, get out, step confidently into a field, and hustle back with his catch: flowers of all variety, aloe vera, cinnamon, nutmeg.

“Rub it in your fingers,” he would instuct my wife, son, and me. “Tell me what you smell.”

He seemed equally delighted whether we correctly named it on our first try or if he stumped us. His joy emanated from the opportunity to share his world with people who had stopped by and seemed sincere about absorbing it.

For his final touch, he stopped by a field attended by a man he knew. After some discussion, he came back carrying the prize he most wanted to present.

“That is sugarcane,” Peterson said. “Have you ever tasted anything so sweet?”

No. And I could say that for the whole day. I had sampled the sweetness of an island I never would have stumbled upon on my own, served up by someone who lovingly presented it right in my hands.

– Kevin Quirk, personal historian and author of “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It: An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story”


Sully Sullenberger's New Book "Making a Difference" Relates to Dave Sanderson's Mission after Surviving the Miracle on the Hudson

Sully Sullenberger has a new book out, “Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage From America’s Leaders.” To gather material for the book, Sully spoke to leaders from diverse walks of life about the qualities, characteristics, and intentions of effective leaders and agents of change. His own intention, Sully says, is to remind us that we all can be leaders through our actions, no matter who we are or what we do in life.

I totally agree. I also believe that when one person leads through his or her actions in a profound way, it opens the door for, and encourages, others in their direct orbit to bring forward their own leadership abilities and inclinations. That’s how it has worked for Dave Sanderson. Dave is one of the surviving passengers of the Miracle on the Hudson featured in the book that I co-authored, “Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life.” ( With every breath he takes, Dave knows that Sully’s brilliant leadership and stunning precision in landing US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson gave him a chance to live. Sully’s feat also paved the way for dozens of passengers like Dave to demonstrate their own leadership, resourcefulness, and teamwork in working together to get out of that plane and onto rescue boats alive – with not a single casualty, thanks to the efforts of those ferry boat operators, first responders, Red Cross personnel and many more.

Dave Sanderson risked his own health and safety by remaining onboard near the vulnerable rear of the plane until others had safely climbed onto the plane’s life rafts and water-covered wings. A night in the hospital with severe hypothermia from standing in waist-deep frigid water was a small price to pay. From his experience, a new life mission was born for Dave: to become a public speaker to share what happened to him through the Miracle on the Hudson, what he learned from it, and what we all can gain from recognizing that we indeed can become leaders in our own lives while serving the public good.

Dave has presented hundreds of talks to diverse audiences all over the country, including many fund-raising appearances for the Red Cross. He’s done it all while maintaining his primary job as well. He’s touched women and men of all ages who hear him, and many of them have in turn touched Dave with their own stories about courageous and dedicated acts to lead and serve others. It’s the ripple effect of the Miracle on the Hudson that we discuss in “Brace for Impact.” Sully Sullenberger is the catalyst, and his latest book and talks remind us that those ripples can reach every one of us.

– Kevin Quirk, Co-author of “Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life” and author of “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It!”


A Physician's Inspiring Addiction Recovery Journey Fuels New Guidebook

How do we heal from diseases, traumas, accidents, and painful childhood experiences? Many memoirs and autobiographies provide us clues and inspiration. Professional guidebooks often engage us with personal accounts that help us see ourselves and gaze into a more healthy and satisfying future we desire.

From the Edge of the Cliff: Understanding the Two Phases of Recovery And Becoming the Person You’re Meant To Be by Dawn V. Obrecht, M.D., beautifully combines both the professional guidance and intimate feel of the person who has been there…and come out the other side. I had the privilege of assisting Doc Dawn with this new book and I’m excited to witness its launching. This is a comprehensice guide for anyone at any stage of the addiction recovery spectrum: those suffering through active addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs and desperate to claim recovery; those struggling through the fragile initial months or years of Phase I Recovery; and those who have sustained recovery but who yearn for something more in a life beyond alcohol and drugs: a Phase II Recovery. It’s also a vital resource for loved ones of addicts, and it’s an especially valuable aid for healthcare professionals who too often fail to understand the lives and needs of millions of women and men that come to them as a last resort.

Doc Dawn is an addiction specialist. She thoroughly knows the terrain. Some 30 years ago she was so desperate to escape her life of booze and drugs that she devised a plan to drive off a cliff in the Colorado mountains – with her two young children with her. Instead, she turned to recovery. The many stages she has succssfully navigated offer tools and encouragement for those seeking to find their way.

The book is built around 60 practical, to-the-point lessons for alcoholics and addicts. If your own life is clouded by addiction, or you know someone who has battled this pervasive disease, From the Edge of the Cliff may serve as one of the most important and valuable allies they will find. You can learn more about Doc and the book at her website:

– Kevin Quirk, co-author of the inspirational book Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life.      

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