Thomas’ entry into the world was not typical. He was born a twin by emergency caesarean section, weighing 2 pounds and 5 ounces at twenty-seven weeks. Unfortunately, his brother Alexander did not make it through the first day. Thomas spent the first ten weeks in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) of St. Joseph's Hospital in London, Ontario. Although Thomas was very sick, he doubled his birth weight and left the hospital in better than expected time. It was evident that he had an incredible desire to live even though the odds seemed heavily stacked against him from day one.
At six months, Thomas was diagnosed to be profoundly deaf. As his father, this was extremely difficult, as I had no idea what to do or what course of action to take. Then, around eighteen months, Thomas was diagnosed with autism. Coupled with the deafness, I became convinced that Thomas’ chances of a 'normal' or productive life were all but impossible. I couldn't imagine what kind of job or career he may get being a deaf person with severe learning disabilities.
Fortunately for Thomas, he had a mother committed to finding all the answers. Lisa, my wife, spent endless days and nights making phone calls, reading medical literature, and driving thousands of miles to dozens of appointments and assessments. She had no other option because at the time there were no personal computers, iPhones or Google. You can imagine the emotional, physical and financial challenges we were facing.
Because of Lisa's efforts, Thomas began to thrive. At home, we provided a loving and nurturing environment. At three years of age he was enrolled in the nearby School for the Deaf, where he received outstanding care and instruction. Although Thomas had been clinically diagnosed to be severely delayed and retarded (yes that was a clinical diagnosis we once received) Lisa and I decided never to label him. We would never allow him to think he was anything less than exceptional.
Over the years, Thomas was able to improve in many areas. Although socially awkward, he loved to be around those closest to him. Lisa and I had three more children giving Thomas two younger brothers and a younger sister. Being a part of a large family helped normalize his life.
At age twenty-one, Thomas graduated from the deaf school with a Certificate of Accomplishment. A High School Diploma was impossible because his reading, writing, and math skills never exceeded those of a grade one or grade two student level.
As he was raised in a very encouraging family, Thomas learned that whatever he wanted to happen could happen. Most of his desires were easy to meet such as local trips to see the CN Tower or a walk around Toronto. However, this all changed around age twenty-three, as Thomas proclaimed he wanted to get a driver's license and buy a car.
Things were now going to get real! Of course, we were convinced this would never happen. Although we constantly encouraged Thomas, we also knew his limits and it was heartbreaking to think that we would have to tell him so, especially when he would see his younger siblings eventually drive. For the first time, Lisa and I felt like we had failed our son; and there was no magic wand we could wave to fix the problem.
However, Thomas didn't care what we thought; he was insistent and relentless in his demand. He was convinced that he would get a license and buy a car. He didn't care how it would happen; he just assumed it would.
How could a deaf, autistic man operating with a grade one/two reading level accomplish this goal? How would that even be possible? Of course, to get a license and buy a car, so many things would need to happen. Lisa and I would obviously need to be involved to assist Thomas with this unimaginable goal.
So with a great deal of caution and uncertainty, we decided to go for it. We outlined the specific legal requirements that he would need, specifically a written test, and explained he would also have to go to driving school. We informed him that he would also need outside help, and he readily accepted the prescribed outline. Thomas figured the more, the merrier if it meant he would be able to hit the open road.
Although concise time frames didn't need to be a factor for Thomas, we outlined the entire process and that realistically it would take 3 to 4 years. This didn’t seem to faze him, as having a concise time frame allowed him to see his quest genuinely taking root.
To buy a good used car, we explained, he would need about $7,000. To do this, he would have to start saving $200 per month immediately. Later that day, I drove him to the bank, and he withdrew $200 from his bank account. He brought the money home, placed it in an envelope, and secured it in a lockbox that he kept under his bed.
The next part of the plan would be the most challenging. Lisa and I had to find that special someone to teach Thomas the driver's handbook and prepare him to pass the test. For most people, no problem, but for Thomas, this would be his greatest challenge. Remember, he can't read or write past the grade one/two level so how would it be possible for him to understand the questions and select the correct answer in a multiple-choice exam? We had no idea how this would pan out, and we figured he would have to take the test perhaps ten or fifteen times to have a chance of passing.
Then, a miraculous thing happened. After numerous phone calls to deaf agencies and community organizations, we were told of a deaf gentleman who had recently immigrated to Canada from Lebanon to complete his Ph.D. in Pathology at the local University. For some odd reason, this fellow was keenly interested in helping Thomas pass his driver’s exam. We met with this gentleman, explained the circumstances, and he accepted the challenge with a great deal of enthusiasm.
Over the next five months, Thomas and his new teacher would meet twice weekly for three-hour sessions at our local library. At first, there was little progress made, but then something phenomenal occurred. Thomas’ teacher began to identify learning strategies that worked for Thomas that no other person or teacher had seen before. The order and method in which Thomas learned were different from 99.9% of everyone else allowing a rare insight into Thomas’ learning processes. Over the next few months, Thomas began to learn more quickly, and his test results started to improve dramatically. By the end of five months, Thomas’ practice scores were now consistently over 75%. This was the threshold he would need to achieve to earn his G1 learners driving permit!
In February of 2018, Thomas passed his government exam scoring 38 out of 40 on part one and 39 out of 40 on part two. Thomas’ perseverance and desire never wavered during this five-month process as he knew it was a means to an end.
He never complained or considered quitting. As Napoleon Hill, The author of Think and Grow Rich once wrote, “whatever the mind of man can conceive and bring itself to believe, it can achieve.” Thomas is living proof of this.
At this point, Thomas put the pedal to the metal and for the next sixteen months, he drove both our cars with my wife or me in the passenger's seat. For the first few months, he utilized the local mall parking lot to practice his basic fundamentals. He soon progressed to the city streets and then to the county roads. Seeing the total exhilaration in his face while driving was a beautiful thing. He must have conducted 20,000 kilometres over that period.
In the spring of 2019, Thomas let us know he was ready to get his G2 license. And this would allow him to drive on his own and ultimately buy his first car. And now the next challenge, could we find a deaf driving instructor?
We made numerous calls to driving schools all over the area - no luck. Finally, someone from Young Drivers of Canada called me back to inform me that they knew of a gentleman who would like to help out. Although this fellow was not deaf and did not know sign language, he felt he could communicate enough information with Thomas for him to pass the road test. For the next four months, Thomas and his driving instructor were out on the road for his twice-weekly instruction.
In November 2019, Thomas attempted and passed his road test on his first attempt! I'm not too proud to say, I failed my first attempt at a driving test and needed a second try.
To say Thomas was excited about this would be a massive understatement. He was on top of the world. For the next eight months, he constantly drove our cars. He loved his independence and he sure loved the open road. However, only one thing could make this better. In the summer of 2020, Thomas took his savings and purchased a Subaru Outback. His desire to get a license and own a car was now complete. To this day, he still saves $200 per month, and I'm almost afraid to ask him what he's saving up for now.
Now let's examine this. Here you have a deaf and autistic person, who should not be able to pass a written driver's test or pass a driver's road test. However, Thomas’ unwavering belief and burning desire overcame any roadblocks or obstacles that would get in his way. Let me expand upon the 8 simple principles Thomas applied and how they can work for anyone of us.
The first principle for attracting what you want is to have a strong desire for it.
This was never an issue for Thomas. He became obsessed with getting his license and buying that car. He had a burning desire that I had never seen before. He would bring it up several times daily, and he would show us countless pictures from online of the type of car he wanted and where he was going to travel to. His desire was an all-encompassing passion.
The second principle is to have faith that it will happen.
Thomas had 100% faith that he would get a license and buy that car. Biblically, faith is defined as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Although the driver's license was not yet in his wallet or the new car parked in the driveway, it didn't matter to Thomas. Both were in his mind's eye, and it was just a matter of time before his dream would become a reality. I think this is where Thomas had an advantage over most people. Because of his autism and deafness, the outer world had pretty much been shut out from him.
Lisa and I have always worked hard to make sure that his worldview remained positive and he truly believes that if you want something bad enough, it will manifest into reality. He saw his younger siblings get their licenses, and he knew it was possible, and for him, the who, when, where, what, why, and how didn't matter. It was going to happen, no matter what.
Although all the outside influences didn't support Thomas’ goal, he alone had 100% faith that it could happen, and when you believe as he did, you can move mountains.
Thirdly, you must use the principle of positive self-talk to affect the subconscious mind.
Simply put, the subconscious mind is the part of the brain that drives people to either success or failure. The subconscious mind does not know the difference between fact and fiction; it only understands what it is told. By observing Thomas’ actions and his communication with us, it became evident he was constantly telling himself that yes, he will get a driver's license and yes, he will buy a car. This constant and repetitive positive self-talk eventually convinced his subconscious mind that getting a driving permit and buying a car was not a matter of if but a matter of when.
The fourth principle requires making a decision with a specific result in mind.
This cannot be a vague decision but a specific objective with a great deal of clarity. Most people would like to be successful, have more money, a bigger house, etc., but for most, their desire and their decision to move forward are hazy at best. When our choices are not definite, we get easily distracted, procrastinate and put off achieving our goals. It becomes almost impossible to hit a target we can't see. Thomas kept his goal in plain view, which allowed him to reinforce his decision on a daily basis.
The fifth principle involves learning the specialized knowledge that is required to reach your goal.
Thomas would need to gain specific expertise to get a license and buy a car. Given his learning challenges, it was imperative to keep the process uncomplicated and straightforward. Everything needed to be done in baby steps to observe his progress constantly. We understand knowledge itself is not power, but correct knowledge will lead to success when organized and directed through a thought-out plan of action.
Next, is principle number six, planning.
Having a well-defined plan to attain your goals is just as important as knowing what information and tools you will need to get there. It was important for Thomas to see the stages of his plan unfolding and as they did, he became even more confident that his desires would manifest. Everything he needed to learn and do was laid out in a simple, concise, trackable, and developmentally appropriate plan. Each time a stage was completed, a checkmark was put next to it. This in itself was inherent primed, motivation. We also instilled a realistic, flexible timeline between stages to allow for adjustments if needed with unpredictable variables.
The seventh principle is persistence.
Like everything in life, there are ups and downs. One day we're flying like an eagle, and the next, we struggle to get out of bed. Sometimes it seems like the latter is more common than the former. The easiest and most common thing to do when faced with adversity is to quit. It is on those tough days that we need to keep our nose to the grindstone and continue to move forward. This is when our true character is revealed.
Very seldom did Thomas becomes discouraged as he always kept his goal in front of him. He kept the main thing the main thing. Not a day would go by without him doing something that furthered his goal. When he was studying for his G1, he would review his notes, review the driver's manual, and while undertaking the G2 process, he would be practicing his driving. He would constantly look at the auto trader sales site and chart out the paths he would soon drive using Google maps. Thomas mastered the principle of persistence, continually pushing forward, never retreat!
The eighth principle is to develop a mastermind group or team.
You do it by yourself, but you sure can't do it alone. I know this seems contradictory, but no one climbs the ladder of success without other people playing a significant role. For Thomas to reach his goal, he needed support, but this help could not come from random people. Thomas would require specialized people who truly supported his vision and those who could directly assist in its attainment. For Thomas, these people included his parents, siblings, test instructor, and a driving instructor.
We need to surround ourselves with like-minded people who have common ambitions and desires. When two or more people are working for a common goal, their chance of success grows exponentially. Almost all outstanding achievement is the result of a group of talented and dedicated people working together in unison.
It is important to emphasize that Thomas kept things very simple; he did not complicate anything. Throughout the entire three to four-year journey, his goal did not change. His target was explicitly identified, and it was kept in plain sight every day. Most people spend way too much time overthinking their strategy, convinced that they need an overly, elaborate plan to succeed. Thomas’ experience proves that this is certainly not the case.
Equally important, Thomas never focused on his limitations or disabilities. His vision was always fixed on the goal and what he would need to do next. Too many people fixate on their current situation. They are convinced they have to fix their current brokenness before they can successfully move forward. This is not the case; in fact, this line of thinking is destructive. Whenever we focus on our problems they compound and we lose sight of the goal. The key is to forge forward in spite of our imperfections.
Here is an overview of the 8 simple principles Thomas applied:
Develop a strong desire for what you want
Have faith that it will happen
Use positive self-talk to affect the subconscious mind
Making a decision with a specific result in mind
Learn the specialized knowledge that is required to reach your goal
Have a well-defined plan of how to achieve your goal
Develop a mastermind group or team
I find it remarkable that Thomas instinctively knew how to bring his desire into existence. It proves without a doubt that each of us possesses the tools needed to make all our dreams and goals come true. We should not take this lightly; we need to spend each day discovering these tools and putting them to use.
Other than Thomas, no one believed that he could become a licensed driver and buy his own car. He proved that an internal burning desire could overcome any outside influences, no matter how big. So what goals and objectives are you capable of attaining? That choice is entirely up to you.