Four Habits of Highly Successful Children and a Few Adults

Four Habits of Highly Successful Children and a Few Adults

It's a pleasure to meet you.

It’s a pleasure to meet you.

We live in a world where competition for good jobs and solid relationships is intense! Unfortunately some simple habits that once defined our society and prepared men and women to excel in those endeavors have all but disappeared.

I spotted this trend decades ago and decided to teach my children and grandchildren those habits. I hope you will be inspired to practice them and pass them on to a new generation.

Habit number #1: Learn to Look up

I have checked into hotels, boarded planes, rented cars and had sandwiches prepared in fast food restaurants. Too often the person working behind the counter never established eye contact, never acknowledged that I was there. If I had later robbed a bank they could not have identified me!

I can hear the excuse, “We see so many people.” My response would be, “No you don’t. You don’t SEE any people.” Look at me! Look at the people you serve! Look at the people who serve you!

Very few things are more inviting, reassuring and refreshing than having someone look into your eyes and acknowledge that you exist. If I were training personnel at a hotel or fast food outlet, I would hammer home this concept. Look at the customer!

Since no companies have stepped forward to ask me to train their employees, I decided to teach my children and grandchildren these classy habits that lead to success. I tell them, “When you order french fries, whenever someone speaks to you, look directly into their eyes. Pretend you will have to pick them out of a lineup. See them! Remember them.”

Making eye contact screams……….

  • I am confident
  • I am listening to you
  • I want you to listen to me
  • I acknowledge you as a human being
  • I respect you and I want to be respected

Coy and shy are euphemisms we use to describe what sometimes are simply bad manners! Those tendencies should not be encouraged. Aloof and “Hollywood cool” are a total turn off. None of these will help your child find good friends, or a well-paying job. Teach your children to look up and make eye contact.

Habit #2: Learn to speak up

Today I was on an airplane where the flight attendant rushed through the memorized safety briefing so fast and carelessly I couldn’t understand a word. Had we needed that information to survive an emergency, we would have perished.

We live in a mumbling, slurring, almost incomprehensible generation of communicators. Help your children speak up and stand out.

Early in their lives we insisted that our children learn to communicate. They were required to look into the eyes of a waiter and order their food precisely. “I would like an order of chicken nuggets, a small salad with ranch dressing, and a Sprite, Please!…….. Oh, and may I please have my dressing on the side.”

Waiters always give special attention to children who communicate because they demonstrate a rare confidence and intelligence.

So do any adults who practice these habits. They sell more, have solid friendships, earn trust, and usually earn more money.

Would you buy a used car from salesman who wouldn’t look you in the eye, hid behind the manager’s leg and mumbled about the benefits of the vehicle? Neither would I.

Habit #3: Learn to Cheer Up

Smile! Your future may depend on it! What a cheap price to pay to bring light into someone’s life.

Last night the front desk clerk at my hotel looked up as I dragged my tired frame to the counter. She caught my eye, smiled broadly and spoke with authentic cheerfulness.

“Welcome to our hotel Mr. Davis, I am glad you have chosen to stay with us. How can I help you?” Wow! My room was not the most luxurious, but I will choose to stay at this hotel again.

How different from the encounter a few days ago. I dragged the same tired frame to the check in desk only to be confronted by a frowning clerk. If he had eyes, I never saw them. But I had a front row seat to the frown.

“Do you have a reservation?”


“How many nights will you be inconveniencing us?”

Still not looking up, the clerk shoved a paper across the desk, showed me where to sign and write my initials, then he pointed in the general direction of the elevators and barked,


No smile, no conversation, no eyes! I want so badly to shake him and say, “Wise up! Look up, Speak up, and Cheer up.”

A sincere smile is like strawberry jelly. It can make even burnt toast taste good.

Habit #4: Learn to Reach up

Whenever possible and whenever appropriate TOUCH people you talk to. Unfortunately our culture has sexualized touch to the point of making it taboo.

I will fight this nonsense as long as I live. A hand on the shoulder of a friend, a touch on the arm of someone who has served me well, a bear hug for a business partner or close friend, all serve as an additional acknowledgement that they exist, that someone cares, appreciates their service or their business.

I shake the hand of every military person I see. My grandsons and granddaughters are instructed to shake the hand of the person they have been introduced to.

We tell them not to simply hold their arm out with their hand hanging like a glob of limp spinach from the end of it, but to squeeze the hand being extended. Do it with both hands if necessary. Look them in the eye. Speak up. Smile! Tell them your name and say how happy you are to meet them. Ask them a question about themselves.

When you meet children with these habits, when you run into adults with these habits, when YOU are a person with these habits…… You will stand out from the norm.

You encourage
You inspire
You WILL succeed!

[reminder]Is it just me, or do you also believe these habits matter? I look forward to your comments.[/reminder]


  1. I definitely think these habits matter. I would also add basic
    manners of “please” and “thank you”. Even with adults, these are often
    missed and kids pick up on the examples we set for them which makes it
    even more important that we make sure we acknowledge people (as you set
    forth in this post).

  2. Thanks, Ken or Mr. Davids, this will be very helpful to me because I am a hearing impaired. I sometimes am asked why I stare at people when I talk to them or listen. It is not that I can’t always hear them I just went to make sure I heard them right…Anyhow, this will help me this week because I have two job interviews. Thank you again for sharing this very available information, it is greatly appreciated. Have a Great Day… 🙂

    1. Ii hope you will never be self conscious about looking at people. Some people will be uncomfortable because it is a rare gift they don’t know how to receive. When accompanied with a smile it will give you the edge in any interview. Let me know how the interviews go. I will pray you do well.

  3. Sir, I was raised with manners and try desperately to instill those same values into my children. I grew up calling people by their last names (not first name bases) and saying “Sir” or “Ma’am” as show of respect (and the recipients weren’t offended saying that it made them feel “old”). We were taught to speak up and look people in the eyes. We were taught having a firm handshake meant confidence and to always have integrity; to take responsibility for our actions and not to blame others. I also grew up in a time/place that any adult had the ability to correct me if I showed an ounce of disrespect; not so today. I grew up that if I “showed myself” in school, I could go to the principal’s office and actually receive a spanking (it wasn’t simply a visit to sit and wait for my parents to come). It is refreshing that these teachings are still out there and being taught. My children range from 13 to 2 years, and I pray that when they’re my age they will pass these same values to their children, my grandchildren, someday…Thank you for taking the time to call it out and remind us to be personable, even in a “busy” time. After all, this life isn’t supposed to be about being “busy”, but it’s about building relationships and making connections. Our sole purpose in this life is to make a [good] impact in the lives of others…not to overlook them or to hurry about aimlessly. Blessings to you and your ministry!

  4. Yes, these are very important, and people with these type of manners stand out in today’s world. Actions and reactions that I was taught as a child – good manners – seem to have almost disappeared in the last 15 to 20 years. It is sad, because courtesy and common sense seems to have departed with good manners. I was extremely shy as a child, but my mother insisted that I have good manners – and it has served me well. Although I am not a confident conversationalist, I have learned that a welcoming smile and a friendly manner is all I need to get a conversation started – whether on my job, at church, or wherever.
    Please keep sharing this with as many people as you can. So many young people that I meet have no idea what good manners are, because they have never been taught (sad, but true). Thank you for sharing your life with so many!! 🙂

    1. Sondra, I hope these words will increase your confidence. Your smile and friendly manner put other people at ease. Forget about what other people are thinking about you, concentrate on listening and enjoying them and confidence is born. We teach this at your professional speaking conference SCORRE. It sounds like you practice it already. You even demonstrate it in your post. BE CONFIDENT! Ken

  5. Wow, you nailed it, Ken! Thanks so much for putting down what we all feel—and habits we should all exercise! Very helpful.

  6. What a fantastic post! My childrens’ school implemented the 7 habits of highly effective people in the form of “The Leader in Me” by Stephen Covey. The difference it has made is amazing. Having a child greet you at the door of any event, make eye contact, shake your hand and tell you they are glad you are here is one of the greatest parts. They’re learning leadership skills to last a lifetime. Every child needs these tools to be successful later in life.

  7. When boarding an airplane (pre 9-11) I used to have a small piece of red foam on my photo ID. As we handed the boarding pass and ID to the attendant, they look down at it. Then I would pop a foam clown nose on. (Greg Wood – Clown Division – Undercover) When they look up, I look like my photo. This would get a good reaction and make the attendant laugh (or at least smile). However, you would be surprised how many times it went completely unnoticed.
    REALLY, I’m wearing a big red clown nose here and you don’t even notice it. LOOK UP. This never gave me a real sense of security about that flight 🙂
    BTW DO NOT do this with a State Trooper. Just saying.

  8. I taught all my nieces and nephews and my son to use the names on the nametag. Too often the servers also have been treated poorly and by looking them in the eye and smiling and saying “Hi Nancy (or whomever) ” has made such a difference in the service I receive and also in the service others receive. We have all seen these waiters, waitresses, drivers, retail clerks and people with nametags suddenly come to life just treating them like a fellow human with a name. I also learned that if you can compliment something on someone, do it, even if you don’t know them. I cant tell you how many times I have stopped someone to say, “Gee that color is great on you” or “I love that pin or necklace.” People stand up a little straighter, smile a lot more and walk with an air of confidence then. And when the bill comes I always write back when they say “Thanks, Marge,” I write “Thanks Marge you were a terrific waitress!” One time I even stopped another waiter who wasn’t even our waiter to tell him how impressed I was with how well he treated his customer. He stopped for a moment with his mouth open and said, “Thank you, truly, for noticing. I really do try my best,” and it shows. So yes, kindness, manners and treating each other respectfully.

  9. I agree with you and love the way this was presented. The other day I had an opposite experience that left me feeling cold. I was shopping with my mind on what I needed and where to find it in the store. Suddenly in front of my eyes was a person I have known for a lot of years but hadn’t seen in quite awhile. He is working in the store and when our eyes made contact he had the blankest expression on his face and especially in his eyes. I was so surprised by his reaction to me that I asked him if he knew who I was. He confirmed my name back to me, but his expression was like he did not know me from anyone else. I got the distinct message that he did not want to talk to me or run into me or even know who I was. It was very rude of him and left me feeling worthless in his eyes. I engaged him in conversation for a few minutes, but he finally got away from me. I might also mention that I knew him and all his family from a previous church we both attended and he was a close friend of my son until a few years ago.

    Thank you for sharing this great blog. Maybe you could also address the experience I had. I’m sure it happens more often than we know.

    1. I don’t know him from Adam (love that expression) – but my immediate thought when reading this post is he was embarrassed. Maybe he was embarrassed he was working in a store-especially if he was the big man on campus and due to economic times- we are all struggling through- is feeling ashamed instead of grateful for the job he has -if that’s his problem. Bottom line is it is his problem. I am no expert, but I encounter what I refer to as icky people quite often. I pray for them and then leave their problems with them. Maybe the next time you see each other he’ll apologize and explain himself.

      We are all limited by our own knowledge. There’s so much more to the world than what we see – repeating myself – pray for them and move on.

  10. Dear Ken, thanks as usual for good advice and a smile!! I am Italian we Hug EVERYONE!! Keep reminding people in case they haven’t read the last chapter of the Bible, WE WIN!!!!! love You , keep on keeping on for Jesus!! Remember people He loves us all!!!

  11. Pingback: Four Habits of Highly Successful Children and slightly Adults | D&R Investigations

  12. Remembering all the times my husband and I stressed these very things to our boys as they were growing up. These are such simple, but meaningful, courtesy’s of respect towards others and help remind our kids (and us) it is not all about “me.” Thank you for putting this out there and reminding us how important it is to do these things.

  13. I can remember being told that any man who opened a door for
    a lady was a MCP, Male Chauvinist Pig. Hello, my name is Stephen and I’m a MCP.

  14. Hi Ken, I just wanted to make a comment on the “touch”. I am a nurse and have always prided myself on having a personal approach but then one day I became the patient. Lying in the hospital bed, really ill and feeling alone and miserable; one of my colleagues came in and placed a hand gently on my forearm. He asked simply if there was anything he could do for me. I felt the warmth of that touch right through my whole body and I’m not sexualizing it. The lesson I learned that day has stayed with me over the years and I always incorporate a touch on the arm or shoulder with every personal contact with a patient.

  15. I agree with this post, but I have to add that while this is true in Western cultures, it is not necessarily true in others. In some parts of Africa looking someone in the eyes or a firm shake are both considered rude and aggressive. Perhaps it isn’t as much the actions that children should learn, but rather confidence, empathy and respect. Saying that a smile will always be well received in whatever country you find yourself.

  16. AMEN ken davis!! I did teach my daughter to do these very same things and it HAS and still DOES continue to improve her life and the lives of those around her. Thank you for this post.

  17. Giving eye contact is so important. It’s also extremely important in photography. The lens sees EVERYTHING. I cannot tell you how many times that I go to shoot (with my camera, Ken!) an individual or group, one person has dark glasses on. I ask them if they could take them off and often the looks I get are astounding. I try to educate them that when they look at the camera, they are looking into the faces of 1000 people. If they cannot see your eyes, they cannot see you. (BTW, I also learned from a friend who is a law enforcement officer that the first thing one should do when meeting them officially is make sure they can see your eyes, take off the dark shades. And they also suggested your other point, smile at them. give direct eye contact all the time and answer them confidently. This comes from a customs & immigration officer that tells me that if someone rolling to their booth misses two of the three, the person is automatically flagged for secondary inspection)

    Oh, there is one other thing they look for. If they know or think you are a comedian, plan on staying the night. Our Canadian border officers love you, Ken 😉

  18. Thank you for caring. Being the last of 6 children was a bit of a let down. Although I enjoyed being spoiled by my father, I was never taught these very important ways.
    I was so shy, on my first encounter of paying for something as a child- my father had to push me from behind. I was petrified. From this I have come to believe that children from toddlers age should be taught they have value, and have the right to be polite! To be brave and ask respectfully for what they want or need.
    I believe in looking at name tags and saying the name of the person who is waiting on me- most of the time this brings them to alertness, and a feeling they are important to you. Then they smile….

Leave a Comment