Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dale Carnegie-Changing Lives

A little over a year ago, my world fell apart. I was fired from a job I held for over five years. I didn't really like the job, but I was good at it. I wasn't always treated well, in fact, I was treated very badly. I have always been very shy and a bit codependent, but this was exacerbated by the treatment I received at this company. I had lost all confidence in myself to the point of self destruction. When I was fired, I believed I had nothing to offer and in this economy, I would never find a job. I believed everything I had been told by my previous boss, I had no hire-ability. I was devastated.

As it turned out, being fired was the single best thing to ever happen to me because very soon I was hired by Dale Carnegie Training. I was referred by my friend, Natalie, that worked there, went through the interview process and got the job. Then, everything changed. Instead of being told I was worthless, I was being told I was appreciated. Instead of being told to come to work sick, I was being told to take care of myself. Instead of being told I was dark and negative, I was being told I was valued. The differences between feeling constantly stressed in contrast to  the constant positive reinforcement was phenomenal. I no longer cried after work, but rather looked forward to going into the office each morning. As a requirement of working for Dale Carnegie, I was registered to attend the Dale Carnegie Course. Most of my brain fought against the idea, I already take classes at night at College. I didn't know how I would fit it into my already busy schedule. I also had already taken Human Relations courses, business courses, management courses, and public speaking courses. What could Dale Carnegie teach me that I haven't already learned? I voiced my opinion to my boss, Duane. I remember sitting with him outside. He never once said, look you are taking this or your fired. Instead he asked what I didn't like about myself. I told him I was overly shy, I didn't like to meet new people or talk in front of groups. When I was younger, I was very talented at public speaking and participating in many competitions, but in my adult-hood, I had developed an extreme fear of public speaking. During my public speaking course, I was terrified and just wanted to get it over with. Duane sat with me and addressed each topic and explained how the course could help me overcome my shyness. I reluctantly agreed to complete the course.

When I take courses at school, I can easily blend into the crowd, sit in back and not bring attention to myself. This doesn't fly at the Dale Carnegie Course. In the first five minutes, I realized the course was going to make me confront my biggest fears, in front of a group of strangers. I was going to have to participate, there was no disappearing. My instructors had such a welcoming aura to them, it was starting to get easier to relax and go with the flow. One of the first things we did was fill out a paper saying what we wanted to be able to do once we finished the class. I wrote down that I would want to gain enough confidence to approach another student and ask to be study partners. I had heard that can make classes a bit easier. You have another person to bounce your ideas off of and if you have to miss class, you can get the notes from them. Since I am so shy, the thought of approaching a stranger paralyzes me.

As the class continued through the eight weeks, I found it easier and easier to get up and talk in front of my peers. My confidence was growing each and every day. Instead of internalizing my thoughts and feelings, I learned how to communicate dissatisfaction appropriately and respectfully. My communication skills have never been better. Even more important, I started putting into practice the principles from the class, especially one called Live in Day Tight Compartments. Meaning a day is just that, a day. Just get through that day. Don't relive yesterdays mistakes, don't worry about what can't be done until tomorrow, just get through that day. I learned how to handle my stress in a way that actually made sense. I have mentioned in previous blogs that I have taken steps to minimize my stress, including adding meditation and crafts to my lifestyle. These changes were brought on as a direct result of what I learned in the Dale Carnegie Class.

Yesterday, I attended my first Statistics class. Since the Dale Carnegie Course, all of my classes have been online. Fear gripped me as I walked into this classroom of strangers, thoughts of failure creeping through my head. I am not a numbers person, in fact, I hate math and this class it seemed like nothing was going in my favor. I had the wrong calculator, most of the other students were much more advanced in math than I was, the air conditioning was broken, the grading isn't the way I like it to be, and the class is very test oriented. My thoughts kept jumping to things like; you made a mistake, you should have gone into advanced algebra topics, what were you thinking, I'm going to look stupid next to these math genius', what if I have come this far just to fail? Then my mind started to switch its focus, just get through tonight, don't sell yourself short, when have you ever failed a class. Then a light bulb went off in my partner. I need a study partner, but who? I still am shy, these are still strangers, what do I do?

In front of me sat a woman about my age. I was admiring her Coach purse and something told me this chick knows math. When the class was dismissed, I walked right up to her and asked her to be my study partner. I told her flat out that math scares me and sometimes I struggle. She happily agreed. She was so excited because she wants to teach secondary math and has taken advanced algebra and is taking this class so she can continue on into Calculus next quarter. By helping me, she gets extra experience explaining concepts to someone who struggles in the subject.Win-Win. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to share our notes, especially if one of us has to miss class, and meet in student commons a half-hour before each class.

When I got home, I was sitting in my living room, checking out Facebook, still nervous from class and updated my status to reflect that worry. Then a little voice in my head said calm down, your going to be fine. You've tackled many things worse than Statistics. At that instant, I remembered my first Dale Carnegie Class and realized, though it took a year, I had achieved what I set out to accomplish. I have changed so much in the last year and I have Dale Carnegie to thank for that, my instructors; Steve and Marisa....and Duane for giving me a job, believing in me, and making me take the Dale Carnegie Course. There is a reason the only diploma Warren Buffett displays is his Dale Carnegie Certificate, the course changes lives.