Thoughts + Articles

Keys To Building Your Best Self

What if you are one step away from being your best self?

We all appreciate people who are experts at spotting unique gifts and talents in others…no matter how obscure they may seem. Their words are the fuel that helps our “spark” or gifts burn brightly.  

When I was a junior at the Juilliard School of music in New York City, my father suggested I take the Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations. My father knew a salesman who had taken the Dale Carnegie sales course and gained amazing skills that helped him sell his products. 

Over the next 14 weeks, my classmates and I attended one four-hour session each week.

One of the first nights of class our instructor Jack Killmeyer, smiling at us, asked us to stand up, add a smile on our faces and belt out in unison, the lines of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” He led the way and we followed with smiles on our faces belting out the nursery rhyme! He modeled the behavior, to show us how to do it, and we followed. 

Did we look and feel ridiculous? Yes…but we all looked and felt the same way. It was a great way to cast aside our fears, and create a consistent baseline for our journey. 

As we read the Dale Carnegie books, How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living; we constructed, practiced, and presented our talks in front of the entire class. As we progressed through the course, we saw a transformation within ourselves and in our classmates.

Dale Carnegie said, “If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic.” Our instructor was enthusiastic from the minute we entered his class! It rubbed off on all of us!

He said, “If you smile at people, it’s going to make your life easier and it’s going to make your life more enjoyable.” And, “If you really show interest in other people, they’ll warm up to you.”

Part of our curriculum was to put together a series of 2-minute talks based upon personal experiences, or something we were excited about. This helped cast aside fears and revealed the passions of each attendee. 

Dale Carnegie said when he was just beginning his career, he asked his students to stand and talk about themselves and their problems.

Carnegie later said, “Without knowing what I was doing, I stumbled on the best method of conquering fear.”

Following our talks, our instructor stood to the side, listened intently, smiled, and afterwards led the applause, and said something positive in critiquing each of us. He said things like “tremendous level of intensity”, “you spoke with passion and energy.”  “Your gestures were animated.” “You were on fire.” (One of the highest compliments.)

Our instructor never used a negative word or hinted at criticism. It was all about building your self-esteem and helping you be your best self! Dale Carnegie’s 2nd principle “Give honest sincere appreciation.”

Through my journey as a teacher/ coach/ and leader I have continued to take courses, attend seminars, read books by the experts, listen to audio tapes, and watch videos to continue my education and improve my skills so I can help others learn, grow, and improve their skills.

How do I do this for my students?

By encouraging, inspiring, motivating, and modeling how to do the work, just as my teachers and mentors showed me, by modeling, encouraging, and inspiring me to do the work.

My greatest joy as a teacher is to help my students discover their abilities and work towards their goals.

Many years ago, I received a call from the mother of a high school student. She said, “My husband’s employer recommended you as a violin teacher for my son. I would prefer a man to teach him, but will give you a try. My son is lazy and stupid.”

I replied, “Please do not talk that way about your son in front of him or to others.”

I agreed to teach this young man, provided that she would be encouraging to her son.

A young man with multi-colored hair, an earring, and strange looking clothes walked into his first violin lesson. His head was down, and he looked depressed.

We began working on scales, an etude, a solo piece, and the orchestra audition materials for the state orchestra auditions. He was a very talented young man and I told him so during our first lesson and all the lessons that followed. The honest sincere words that I spoke to him inspired and motivated him to do his best.

When it was time for the next lesson, a completely different young man walked eagerly up my walkway. He was neatly dressed, had his head up and wore a big smile. He took pride in his work and in himself. Each week I saw a transformation in him.

It was our fifth week of lessons, our final lesson before the state orchestra auditions. I told him how beautiful his playing was and what a good job he would do on the audition. Preparation makes all the difference! The honest sincere words that I spoke to him made him blossom like a flower.

He called me a few days after the audition and said with great pride, “I am the Concertmaster of the orchestra. There were over 40 people trying out and I won first place.” He said this with a smile on his face over the phone.

I told him how proud of him I was and that I knew he would win because of his hard work and determination. His Mother called and said, “Even though you are a woman, you did a good job with him!”

I bit my tongue, but thanked her for the compliment.

This young man changed his attitude and worked hard because of the honest sincere praise I gave him at every lesson. He went on to college after he graduated at the top of his high school class.

Do you remember a teacher, coach, friend or family member who complimented you? That compliment inspired and motivated you to work harder to do your best!

Have you ever mentored or coached someone and watched him or her succeed? How did you feel when they were successful?

I bet you felt proud and happy for their success and you walked a little taller that day!

Do you remember a coach or teacher that believed in you and gave you words of praise when you needed it? 

Building confidence in others and in ourselves makes all the difference in the world to our success!

Zig Ziglar, motivational expert and mentor in his book, “See You at the Top” read the following story as a young salesman. It made a lasting impression on him. A young woman had sung since she was a young girl. She made her musical debut in a church cantata. She had a beautiful voice and a great career was predicted for her. As she grew older, she sang more concerts at local functions. Her family recognized her need for professional voice training.

Her family found a well-known singing teacher who pointed out everything she did wrong. As time passed, the young woman grew to admire her teacher and married him. Fewer and fewer concerts came her way as she had lost confidence in her gift of singing. Her teacher and husband had broken her confidence. When he passed away she was no longer singing at all.

Several years later she began to date a salesman and she would sometimes hum a tune while she was with him. He said, “Sing some more, Honey. You have the most beautiful voice in all the world”.

The salesman was not an expert, but he knew what he liked and gave her honest sincere compliments. She gained confidence from the salesman’s honest appreciative words and felt her joy of singing return to her. She was asked to sing in a few concerts. Once again with her confidence in hand, she resumed her career and married her salesman.

Zig Ziglar said, “She married the “good finder” and enjoyed a successful career. The salesman’s praise for her was totally honest, sincere, and much needed. In fact, a sincere compliment is one of the most effective teaching and motivating methods in existence.”

What is the next step to building your best self?

Coach John Wooden in his book, “Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success Playbook” tells the following story: “When I was a young boy, I was at a gravel pit with my father and a young man. They had a team of horses and were attempting to pull a load up a steep road. The young man driving the horses was loud and abusive. In response, the animals were agitated, worked against each other and couldn’t pull the load. With a gentle voice and gentler touch, my Dad calmed the horses and walked them forward with a load.”

Coach Wooden learned two important lessons that day.

1) “Gentleness is a better method of getting cooperation than harshness.”

2) “A team can accomplish much more when it works together than individuals can when they work alone.”

Like all living creatures, the horses needed kindness and gentleness and honest sincere appreciation to move the heavy load. Remember this when you are developing others and when you are working on your own self-development!

Zig Ziglar shared the following story about a beggar selling pencils in New York. A businessman dropped a dollar into the cup of the beggar and rushed to board the subway train. The businessman suddenly turned back, before entering the train, and went back to the beggar selling the pencils. He took several pencils from the cup. The businessman apologized and explained that in his haste he had neglected to pick up his pencils and hoped the man wouldn’t be upset with him. He said, “You are a businessman just like me. You have merchandise to sell and it’s fairly priced.” The businessman then went to catch the next train.

A neatly dressed salesman attended a social function and introduced himself to the businessman. The salesman said, “You probably don’t remember me and I don’t know your name, but I will never forget you. You are the man who gave me back my self-respect. I was a ‘beggar’ selling pencils until you came along and told me I was a businessman.”

Zig Ziglar said, “The greatest good we can do for anyone is not to share our wealth with them, but rather to reveal their own wealth to them. It’s astonishing how much talent and ability rests inside a human being.” Help others to discover their abilities.

Find an expert mentor in your field that will model the skill you want to learn.

What can a mentor do for you?

A mentor will model the way for others to follow by listening, observing, connecting, adding value to them, respecting them, empowering others, and instructing them.

So, what is your next step to building your best self?

Here are a few steps to try.

1)   Each morning begin with a positive attitude, smile, and start your day by saying positive motivational things to yourself.

2)   Choose to surround yourself with people that help you stretch mentally to be your best self.

3)   Give an honest and sincere compliment every day to inspire, motivate, and encourage someone else each day. How does the other person look after you make this honest sincere compliment? How do you feel after making this honest sincere compliment to someone else?

4)   Sign up to take courses, attend seminars, read books, listen to audio tapes, watch videos to continue your education and improve your skills in your field.

5)   Find an expert mentor in your field to model, encourage, inspire, and help you gain new skills.

Be like the businessman who told the “beggar selling pencils”, “You are a businessman just like me. You have merchandise to sell and it’s fairly priced.” Encouraging words changed the way the beggar saw himself.

Zig Ziglar, motivational expert and author said, “A sincere compliment is one of the most effective teaching and motivating methods in existence.”

Mary Kay Ash, an American business woman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important’. Never forget this message when working with people.” 

What next step will you take, to build your best self?

Madeline Frank, Ph.D., is an Best Selling Author, speaker, business owner, teacher, concert artist, and parent. She helps businesses and organizations “Tune Up their Business”. Her observations show you the blue prints necessary to improve and keep your business successful. Her latest book “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget” is available everywhere books are sold. If you need a virtual speaker contact Madeline at:

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2022 at 9:02 pm and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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