How have your skills progressed since the third grade

May 6, 2012
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“What I did on my summer vacation.” Every one of you have given a speech, or written a paragraph or essay while you were in grade school about what you did on your summer vacation.

You wrote about the lake, the mountains, or the week at the beach. Or you gave a speech and your opening line was, “What I did on my summer vacation.” And you held your own hands and nervously performed in front of your peers.

You were worried about what they would think and you were nervous about performing in front of your classmates, but somehow you muddled through it.

Your essay was returned with all kinds of red marks for punctuation, grammar and misspellings.

For those of you who are pack rats, or have parents who are pack rats, you may still have the document.

Personal note: I have many of my daughters’ early writings. All gems.

I’m giving you this reminder, this bit of nostalgic instant memory, so I can issue you the following challenges: How have you progressed since then?

How much better are your writing skills? How much better are your presentation skills? And how important are those skills to your sales success, your business success, your social media success and your career success?

I’ve been a professional writer and professional speaker for 20 years. But like you, I’ve been an amateur since the third grade when I talked about what I did on my summer vacation, and in the fourth grade when I wrote about Hurricane Hazel, which rocked Atlantic City where my family was living at the time.

What most people don’t understand is that their initial training forms the foundation of their present skills. Your grammar, your ability to spell, your self-confidence to be able to speak and your overall character are formulated by your ability to communicate both orally and in writing.

Every one of you reading this is now thinking, “Maybe I should have paid more attention when my high school English teacher was drilling the difference of there, their and they’re, or your and you’re.”

Think about the e-mails you receive with the subject line: “Your in Luck!” The person who wrote it is immediately perceived as an idiot and the e-mail is discarded as both disingenuous and poorly prepared.

Maybe I’m prejudiced, but I don’t want to do business with someone who can’t correct his or her own work in the simplest subject line of an e-mail.

The reason I’m harping on speaking and writing is because they are the foundation of the two most important elements of your success: image and reputation.

Everyone wants to have a great image.

Everyone wants to have a great reputation.

The good news is: You can influence both your image and your reputation with your consistent performance.

I’ll ask my audiences: “How many of you would be nervous speaking in front of a group of 300 people?” Almost everyone raises his or her hand. The real answer is, they are not nervous, they are not uncomfortable — those are symptoms. The real issue is they are unprepared. They lack the experience, or the subject matter expertise, or suffer from limited self-image or low self-esteem — or perhaps all four.

This is further complicated by the fact that most of you reading this know what show is on television on Wednesday night at 9, and you’re glued to the set to see the next episode of “other people’s drama.” You make a conscience choice to watch something rather than to learn something or do something.

Perhaps if you took a Dale Carnegie course on public speaking or joined a Toastmasters group, you would be able to become a confident presenter.

Perhaps if you started your own blog and, at the age of 30 or 40, you write about what you did on your summer vacation, you might be able to attract people with similar likes and values as they search the Internet, same as you.

Please do not confuse this column as a call to action. Rather, it is a call to reality.

REALITY: Your writing skills and your speaking skills need to be at a higher level of competence if you are looking to elevate your income to a higher level.

REALITY: Your reputation is the sum total of your words and deeds — a large portion of which can come from writing and speaking.

REALITY: Your customers are more likely to buy your message if they buy into your passion.

REALITY: You can gain an amazing business social media presence if you combine your ability to write and your ability to convey a value message to your customers.

Here’s my recommendation to you:

1. Write a 500-word blog post once a week. Write about something you love. Write about something that may impact your customers. Write about something you have expertise in.

2. Speak in public once a week. A civil organization will be happy to have you as their breakfast or lunch presenter. Speak on something you love, speak on something others will value, speak on something in which you are an expert.

2.5 You will not reap immediate rewards, but slowly over time your image and reputation will emerge. That’s a reward that has nothing to do with commissions or earnings, but it has everything to do with the feeling of fulfillment. That’s a feeling I hope you get to experience.

Jeffrey Gitomer’s website,, has more information about training and seminars, or e-mail him at

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