Friday, November 02, 2007

How to win friends and amaze yourself.

Just over 2 years ago I read "How to Win Friends and Influence People". It was a very good book that made a lot of sense in my life and helped me improve my relationships with others. It helped, but I wanted more.

About 6 months ago I asked my boss to send me to Dale Carnegie training. For many reasons, this was a difficult task for me. Thirteen weeks ago a group of people showed up for an orientation meeting which ended with an assignment to be prepared for the first week. Each session would be spent listening to everyone in the class give a speech about their own experiences with the challenges in their lives, and participating in some exercises to help us stretch out of our own comfort zone.

The first week arrived and I was nervous. I was very nervous. I had been up until Midnight trying to memorize my speech, and I even practiced it at work, forcing my co-workers to listen to it. They gave me some constructive criticism and I incorporated it. By the end of that first Thursday, I was convinced that I could make up a story, whether it's true or not and get through 11 more weeks of this.

During that first week I was reading the assignments and realized that making up stories would do me no good. I wouldn't get out of the class anything. I had to put all of myself into the class in order to get a lot out of it. I remember telling Erin before I went to class the second week that "if I'm going to get everything the class has to offer, I have to put myself out there completely open". I was scared. I was petrified.

The speech that 2nd week had me nervous. I hadn't prepared it, I hadn't rehearsed it. I knew what I was going to talk about, it was my life, it was a topic impossible for me to get lost on. That day, I decided to put all of myself into this class. I was going to study the assignments, take the challenges that they threw at me and embrace them. I knew that I had to give it my all.

Last night was graduation. It was one final time to share our stories in a forced setting;. to stand up in front of people who started as strangers, but were now friends. In the last 12 weeks, my day to day approach to so many small things has changed. I don't think there is an a single aspect of my life that hasn't been affected by my attending the Dale Carnegie class.

Erin and the kids came to graduation, I wanted to share at least a small part of the fun that I've had in the class with them. I wanted them to see how much fun it is, and meet the great people that I now call my friends. Overall, I think the kids were great. For 2 and 4 you can't really ask for them to be better behaved than they were. I was so proud of them, and so happy that they were there.

When it was all said and done, we voted for the people we thought lived the Dale Carnegie principles the best. My votes went in, just like everyone else. I was pretty sure I knew those that would win. They had had amazing breakthroughs are amazing people. So as Bill stood in front of the room and talked about their achievements and struggles and how they have overcome things and how deserving they were, I was sitting right there basically saying Amen. When the final award for the "highest acheivment", the one voted by the class as the one living the principles the best came up, I sat back and relaxed. Class was almost over. I'd cheer for the winner, congratulate them, because anyone in the class who won deserved it and get home. My kids were tired, up way past their bedtime, and I was worn out. Bill announced the winner, Steven Rigney, and I started clapping...Then it sank in. That was me! That couldn't be me! There are so many others that have done amazing things.

I'm very proud. I didn't sleep well last night, and I've been on a high all day today with the after affects of this award. It is definitely going to be my proudest achievement hanging on the wall.

This class has been amazing for me. For anyone looking to stretch, to push yourself to become better than you are, no matter where you are, this class can help if you approach it with a positive attitude and enthusiasm.

You can read my wife's take at her post "I have barely recovered from last night but need to tell you just how awesome the Awesome Hubby is"