Date With Destiny
“Your Personal Life Coach Letter #3" from Shad Helmstetter
What an incredible miracle the Web, and e-mail offers -- to
be able to talk to you, and to encourage you, and
to “coach” you in this way, each week. If you and I could
talk in person each week, I’m sure that I would tell you in
person what I’m writing to you now.
This week, Eugene, I’m going to talk to you about an
incredibly important subject: your “People Skills” – how
you present yourself to the world around you. This is an
important subject and an important e-mail. I hope you’ll
read all of it – maybe twice.
For years, since writing my first book, “What To Say When
You Talk To Your Self,” and after it made its way onto the
best-seller lists, and then, over the ten books that
followed, people have asked me the same question: “Okay,
Shad, what is the answer then? What would you say, are the
real ‘keys’ to success? What should people do to make
themselves better?” On interview after interview, from
Oprah to CNN, they all asked the same question.
I have some answers to the question of “what everyday
people do to present themselves in the best possible way.”
And I’m going to share some of my answers with you in this
Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of essential ideas, or
rules of success, in “personal presentation,” that
literally all successful people learn and follow. (I will
share the first of the keys with you this week. I’ll give
you more of them in a later letter.) As you’ll see, all
of these rules are about how you look, act, think, and
For this week, Eugene, I’ll begin by asking you 10 basic
questions about the way you present yourself:
1. Do you make sure that you always look your best – the
way you would like everyone else to see you?
2. When you meet someone, does your attitude show
interest, and intelligent thought – no matter what your
doing or who you’re talking to?
3. Does the look in your eyes say that you are alive,
alert, interested, and aware?
4. Do you look directly at the person you’re talking to?
5. Do you listen to what the other person is saying – as
though there is no more important person than the person
you’re listening to at that moment?
6. Do you ask positive, interesting, intelligent
questions, focused directly on the person you’re talking
7. Do you listen – instead of interrupting – and always
wait until it’s your turn to speak?
8. Do you know your objective – and when you speak, do you
end up getting your point across, clearly and openly?
9. When you talk to someone – anyone – can they feel your
quality, strength, and sense of self?
10. Do you leave the meeting or the conversation with the
other person respecting you more, or liking you more?
The person who could answer “yes” to all of those questions
would be a pretty remarkable person. And the quality
person I hope I’m describing, is, of course, you. You may
already be there – or not – but at least, that is your
The fortunate thing about all of the personal presentation
attributes those questions suggest, is that all of them
are “skills.” All of them, like riding a bicycle, are
skills that are learned. You can learn all of
them. Anyone can. (In Part 2 of this letter, I’ll tell
Your assignment this week, Eugene, is to read that list of
questions at least one time each day during the week. By
the end of the week, you may not feel completely
comfortable welcoming Queen Elizabeth to a backyard
barbeque, or meeting the president for lunch, but the
basics are there.
The reason I give you the assignment to read those
questions to yourself each day, every day for the next
week, is not just to give you something to do. These are
the questions that – when you answer them – give you a
new picture of how you want to be, and what basic new
skills you may need to learn to take your next incredible
steps in your life.
Imagine, Eugene, feeling poised, self-assured, confident,
control – regardless of where you are, who you meet, or
what you have to say next. The solution is not magic. All
of us can do it. So can you.
As soon as you can, read Part 2 of this letter. The first
tips are there. Over the next weeks I’ll give you more of
them. None of the skills are difficult, and I encourage
you to learn all of them. After all, why not
be able to feel confidant and comfortable no matter where
you are or who you’re talking to? Believe me, you can do
I believe in you, Eugene, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Part 2: Information and Motivation you can use:
Eugene, I hope this helps. I’m not in any way suggesting
that your “people skills” are not the best, but here some
of the things I’ve learned, and would like to share with
All “people skills,” are just that – skills. Learning how
to ride a bicycle, drive a car, or cook a great meal, is a
skill. Learning how to SCUBA dive, and stay under water
safely for 45 minutes at 60 feet without drowning is a
skill. Learning how to work the stock market is a skill.
Learning how to fly an airplane, and land safely, is a
skill. Knowing how to itemize a company’s expenditures in
the right ledger column is a skill. None of those skills,
that some people do so well, came with us at birth.
We had to learn them.
The point is, the old notion that, when it comes to dealing
with people, “some people have it, and some people don’t,”
is completely false. Dealing with people – putting yourself
out there – at your best – is just another set of very
All “people skills” are like that. They’re just skills,
simple things anyone can learn. We’re not born with them,
some of us learn them – most people don’t. So I’m going to
give you some of the most simple, but powerful, people
skills I have ever studied or learned.
For now, let’s look at just a few of the “people skills”
you can easily learn, one by one:
Rule #1. Make sure that you always look your best – the
way you would like everyone else to see you.
This one is easy and you should do it. Just decide to
always look your best. Dress as well as you possibly can,
for whatever the situation calls for. Make sure your
appearance is great. Cut your hair, shape it, or
trim it. But look your best. Wear something that fits the
occasion. Never try to just “get by.” Always be
so “presentable” that you never have to think about how you
look when you’re trying to make the right impression.
Don’t cut corners. Do what it takes. Look your best.
Rule #2. When you meet someone, make sure your attitude
shows interest, and intelligent thought – no matter what
you’re doing or who you’re talking to ..Pay attention to
the other person. Total attention. Always. (Do you do
Don’t “pretend” to be interested in them – actually be
interested in the other person! Care about who they are,
what they’re doing, and how their life is going. When you
realize that the person you’re talking to has a
life, is trying to make it work, gets tired, has problems,
and is just living life, you can always care. (If you had
just found out that you were related to that other person –
and had just discovered that you had the same great
grandparents, you would see them differently. See them
that way, right from the start.)
By the way, the notion of treating people you meet with
courtesy, deference, interest, and respect, doesn’t just
apply to talking to the boss or someone “important.” It
applies to everyone; the doorman at the hotel, the waitress
in the restaurant, the person next to you at work, the
casual acquaintance you meet at a party, or even the people
in your own home. If you are a person of quality, you show
it with everyone you meet. If I met you in person, I would
certainly treat you that way.
Rule # 3. Make sure that the look in your eyes says that
you are alive, alert, interested, and aware.
Nobody wants to talk to a disinterested person. We admire
and respect people who look alive, alert, and aware. Keep
your eyes active. Notice things. Look at the room around
you. You don’t have to comment on everything you see, but
get interested in everything around you.
People have the impression that some people are not home,
and there’s no light on upstairs. Let people know, by your
eyes and your interest, what you look at, what you see,
that not only is there a light on in your
mind – someone is definitely home. Make them notice how
alert and aware you are. Let them see the intelligence
behind your eyes. People who see that light will treat you
differently. They will give you more respect.
Rule #4. Look directly at the person you’re talking to.
Remember when you were a young kid and you played the game
where you had to look directly into the gaze of someone
else longer than they could look at you? It was an
important game. One that you should master now.
When you’re talking to someone, anyone, at least part of
the time, or better yet, most of the time, look directly at
them. Right into their eyes. Not only will you win,
you’ll learn a whole lot more about the person your talking
When I’ve stood in a receiving line, such as when I’m
signing books or just meeting people – even if there are
500 people in that line – when I talk to each person, that
is the only person I’m talking to. I notice them, focus on
them, talk directly to them, and pay attention only to
them. That isn’t a skill that takes a lot of work; it’s
just a choice to care.
Rule #5. Listen to what the other person is saying – as
though there is no more important person than the person
you’re listening to.
If you’re talking to someone, listen – really listen – to
every word they’ re saying. There is no greater compliment
you can give to someone else. There is no greater way to
build your strength as an individual in their mind.
When you listen, don’t just hear the words. Listen to what
the other person is really saying. The words people use
are just a short-hand version of what they’re really trying
to express. Read between the lines. Listen to what they’re
saying, and what they’re not saying. And let them know
Rule #6. Always, when the time is right, ask positive,
interesting questions, focused directly on the person
you’re talking to.
The most respected person is the one who asks positive,
intelligent, important questions. Don’t try to talk about
you. Talk about them. Ask questions. Good questions.
Caring questions. Get the other person to talk. You won’t
have to say as much, and they will like you more because
you cared about them.
Rule #7. When you’re talking to someone, never interrupt –
and always wait until it’s your turn to speak
You don’t need to share your view of the world, and
everything in it, with everyone you meet. Let the other
person talk! It won’t hurt; it’s actually painless, and if
you’re listening to them, you won’t bore them with your own
trivialities or your world view of life.
When you listen, listen. Think about what they’re saying.
Wait, beyond the pause in the conversation, to give them a
chance to say more. You will always get more points by
listening than by talking.
Rule #8. When you speak, when you say anything, make sure
you know what you’re going to say, and say it in the best
way you possibly can.
Your own words are your personal ambassador to the rest of
the world. Choose them well.
You can compare your conversation to a fine wine. Every
unnecessary or misused word pours water into the wine and
dilutes it. Most people, because they really don’t know
what they want to say – or they have nothing of importance
to say in the first place – turn the wine into water.
Know what you want to say, be willing to keep silent until
it’s your turn to talk. Keep your words to a minimum, but
always say what you mean. How many people do that? Very
9. When you talk to someone – anyone – practice feeling
your own confidence and strength within you. Imagine, at
all times, that the other person can feel your quality,
strength, and sense of self.
This is a skill that is practiced by people who want to
literally live up to their best – even people of
greatness. And it is a skill you can practice at any time.
When you’re talking to someone, literally feel yourself
being confident and self-assured. Hold your head that
way. Form your words that way. In your own mind, become a
person of quality, intelligence, and understanding. What
you’re feeling on the inside, will always show on the
10. Always present yourself in a way that allows the other
person to see you at your best, so that you leave the
meeting or the conversation with the other person
respecting you or liking you more.
In any important conversation – or in any conversation –
never give in to the petty habits of sarcasm, unguided
temper, or being inconsiderate about
anything. Replace those with the quality habits of caring,
understanding, and consideration of the other person.
When you do that, they’ll like you more and respect you
more. Wouldn’t you like to be thought highly of by
everyone who meets you? You can do that. Being liked, or
highly regarded, is also a skill. And it’s a skill
you can practice every day with everyone you meet.
“Being” that person I’ve just described seems like it could
be a pretty tall order. But when you decide to follow
those ideas, and practice them, it isn’t difficult at all.
The most remarkable people you’ve ever met are doing it
If we can actually be that way, inside and out, and show
the world the best of who we really are, why would we ever
want to be anything less?