Nashad Warfield spent much of his high school life in trouble. He was a bad kid, he just never stopped talking.
He still hasn’t, which has worked out well for him as a trainer at the Dale Carnegie Institute. He gets to use his words for a living, spent motivating primarily the young to become more confident, more directed, and more influential. Warfield will be the lead teacher of the institute’s “Gen.Next” summer program, a three-day camp for teens aimed at building kids into tomorrow’s leaders and decision makers, from Tuesday through Thursday, July 21 through 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the institute’s Bordentown location, 243 Route 130. Cost: $895. Call 609-324-9200 or visit www.dalecarnegie-nj.com.
Chapter president Anita Zinsmeister says the program, began in 2005 with Warfield, was developed to offer the institute’s basic principles to the people who often need the most help getting over their shyness and social awkwardness. Teens, after all, are often expected to make the transition to the adult world without much real guidance. They are bombarded with responsibilities, expectations, and consequences, but not given the manual that demystifies the process.
More than anything, Warfield says, the process begins with self-confidence. And self-confidence begins with something “kind of like theater.”
How interesting. “Self-confidence is so important,” Warfield says. Without it you will not just fail to stand out, you might not even get noticed at all. And despite the fact that Gen.Next is focused on teens, Warfield says this aspect of life in the real world can be as much a problem for adults as any kid. “Adults don’t know how to talk to people either,” he says. They get as far as “How’s the weather?” and the conversation grinds down from there. So there is not always a self-confidence role model for kids to emulate.
But self-confidence is easy enough to build, he says, when you know how to develop an actual conversation with someone. The key here is to get people to talk about the one thing they find the most interesting — themselves.
With some people it’s easy, Warfield says. Some people will ramble on about themselves with little more prodding than “Hi.” Others, of course, need to be drawn out. Remembering a person’s name, learning where they’re from, finding out what they do for a living — these are all things adults take for granted as conversation starters. But kids, says Warfield, do not always know — or are too shy to ask — some basic questions like these. Simply asking what school someone goes to or what they do for laughs can tell you a lot; and the more genuinely interested in someone’s answers, the more they will talk to you and the more chance you have to discover the most vital nugget for real conversation.
“The goal is to find some common ground,” Warfield says. “It could be anything. It could be siblings. It could be places we’ve traveled.” It could even be as simple as pets or current events. Whatever it is, Warfield believes there is always something there in the way of shared experience, and that leads to mutual interest, rather than one person pecking away with questions and the other person awkwardly lobbing short answers.
Follow me. Learning to talk to girls is one thing. An important thing to most guys, of course, but not enough to reach your full potential, Warfield says. Leadership is the next step.
Yet effective leadership is rooted firmly to the ability to generate conversation and effect communication. Warfield uses Bill Clinton — who spoke at Warfield’s graduation at Morgan State University in Baltimore in 1997 — as an example. Warfield, a marketing major, was Morgan State’s valedictorian, and as such met the president after giving his address. “He made me feel like I was the only one in 11,000 people,” he says. “He looked me right in the eye and made me feel very special.”
Clinton’s charisma offered Warfield a true glimpse at what it takes to be an effective leader. The president was able to do what he did in large measure because people liked him — even his political enemies. By developing the ability to make every person feel like the most important one in the room, Clinton won many friends who were willing to support him and wanted to see him succeed.
Politics aside, Warfield says that developing friends — along the line of Dale Carnegie’s still-popular book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People” — by becoming interested in other people almost always brings about the reciprocal. When you are interested in others, people become interested in you. They like you. And when people like you, they are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.
The thing to remember is sincerity. People can smell a fake and don’t want any part of a person who reeks of canned flattery, or is obviously trying to cull your interest. “You get more people interested in you by being interested in them than by trying to get them interested in you,” Warfield says.
The benefits. Gaining self-confidence is important for more than just winning over allies, Warfield says. Having it does not just let you yell charge, it gives you the ability to charge on your own. Effective leaders lead by example, he says. They take risks that, when they pay off, show others that there is a path to follow. And leaders who take risks and fail are confident enough to do something most people are not able to do — try again, and keep trying until they either clear a path for others to follow or create a new one.
Born in Brooklyn but raised in Plainfield, Warfield was drawn to the teaching life almost through osmosis. His father is a librarian, his mother is the principal of an elementary school in Plainfield, and his brother was a Rhodes Scholar at Morehouse College. But he never wanted to be a classroom teacher. The boisterous Warfield says he simply could not stand to be in the same classroom every day, with nowhere else to go. “I need to keep moving around,” he says.
He admits, however, that he does carry a sprig of jealousy for traditional teachers because “they get to make that deep impact” on a student’s life and watch them develop over the long term. But he feels he can affect kids — with whom he works primarily — in the short-run as well. Case in point, he never got over a seminar he saw in his senior year at college, when he attended an event by motivational speaker Les Brown. Warfield walked out of the auditorium understanding that he wanted to be a motivational speaker himself. “I wanted to be able to positively affect people’s lives,” he says.
Coincidentally, a friend gave him a copy of Dale Carnegie’s book on his 20th birthday. “Completely changed my life,” he says.
Warfield originally wanted to use his marketing degree in sales, which he did for Proctor & Gamble and then for Black Entrepreneur magazine. But he often gave motivational talks and workshops at schools, churches, and community groups concurrently. After a few years he decided to become an entrepreneur himself and opened NJ Student Success, a Scotch Plains-based firm that seeks to motivate kids to be better students and more rounded individuals.
Warfield also runs a second business with his wife Cheryl — EduPower, al tutoring program also in Scotch Plains. Cheryl Warfield, by the way, is also an educator by training, who earned her master’s in education from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Nashad Warfield has a master’s too, in speech communications, from NYU. He got involved with Carnegie a few years ago and helped Zinsmeister launch Gen.Next in 2005. Since then he says he has seen the power of self-confidence come through more than 100 students, many of whom were dragged in by their parents and now return repeatedly to be volunteer coaches for the program.
As his own motivation, Warfield keeps in mind something Jackie Robinson once said: “Life only matters in the impact it makes on other lives.”