Written: July 8, 2015
I bought this books ages ago, and it has sat on my bookshelf unread gathering dust literally. Then I read Art of the Pimp about Dennis Hof, America’s most flamboyant, successful legal brothel owner, and he often mentioned the book and its impact on his life. And this says it all. Self-help in America is one of the biggest industries in both books and DVDs and other media. Americans want it all, and if someone comes along telling them they can have whatever they want, they just have to follow these seven or ten simple steps, Americans will buy it up like crazy. But the self-help industry is also target of scorn and ridicule, because it also seems ineffectual. In the case of Dennis Hof, Dale Carnegie’s book and recommendations were only taken up partially. Just like everyone else, you pick up a few tools to use and you discard the rest. Hof may be a fabulously successful and wealthy businessman, but he is often a cruel and narcissistic boss, a failure at long-lasting love, and especially unhealthy with bouts of depression. Reading a book or taking a Dale Carnegie class is insufficient. In order to truly gain from any new concept, you have to exercise it frequently with frequent annual updating. While millions of Americans have read great diet books or watched workout videos, without the social support and practice, the advice tends to gather dust, and the person falls for the routine of just buying a new great diet book or a new great workout routine only for it to gather dust too.
On top of this, I always thought the title of the book was a bit contrived. It just sounded too obvious. I mean, think of a book called, “How to Be Loved and Become Happy.” The BS sensors and cynical alarms go off ringing like crazy. But then, we grow up in a world that seems to overlook the most important skill of all, social skill. And society does this for a good reason. This digression is well worth it and related to the book. We are victims of the Grand Graft. The Grand Graft is not a conspiracy but rather a concept that has evolved both consciously and unconsciously, purposefully and randomly to subjugate the masses and instill closed-minded, anti-social obedience. The narrative goes something like this. We are all born imperfect and evil. Left to our own devices, we would all become murderous, evil savages. Civilization is our savior and trains us to be compassionate, civil, moral creatures. The missing narrative is that by civilization, they mean the existing power structure with a few powerful, wealthy at the top and the mass livestock at the bottom working hard for very little. The narrative continues. It is unimportant to have friends, family, and a strong social support network. It is more important for you to spend a large portion of your time by yourself studying, working hard, and being ruthlessly ambitious, climbing the social-corporate-class ladder. Only by getting to the top rungs can you then spend your wealth on material goods that will attract the high-class, beautiful, successful people you want in your life. Otherwise, you are condemned to mingling amongst thieves, scoundrels, losers, and other undesirables amongst the unfortunate masses. This is the Grand Graft.
In reality, we are the most social of all nature’s creations. In fact, we are so social that we fear social embarrassment (public speaking) more than death, and we place respect, dignity, and social approval above sex, food, shelter, and all other basic human needs. Without parenting, our young would die. With inadequate parenting, our young become disabled and disadvantaged for life. Solitary confinement is so undesirable that extended periods of it is considered cruel and unusual punishment. In fact, we are so socialized and socially-oriented, that the idea that we are separate individuals is not only misguiding but inaccurate. We are all part of a social unit. We maximize our abilities and strengths being a part of a close, cohesive social unit rather than being alone. They say that we only use 10% of our brains, but closer to the truth, we only reach 10% of our potential as solitary beings. We reach 100% of our potential as a part of social units. In fact, our social needs and fears are so strong that our rulers have realized that we would do anything, and I mean anything to fulfill our social needs and avoid our social fears. In other words, we would wear a uniform and kill people if we thought it would help us reach our social goals. We would work 80 hours a week and surrender the better part of our lives for it. We would sell our morals, screw our friends over, caste off our families, and even sabotage our loved ones for it. It is all rather ironic, because we think we are helping ourselves to our great social goals when in fact the very things we are sacrificing ARE our great social goals. That great emptiness and hole that we fill with work, drugs, hobbies, thrills, parties, travels, religion is simply our social needs. The more we work or do drugs, the less time we have to fulfill our social needs, so we wind up eternally filling a bottomless hole. Recent research indicates that addiction is nothing more than a substitute for the constant flow of neurotransmitters that would otherwise be activated when we are in relationships. We are social addicts, but take relationships away from us, and we are desperate to substitute that one singular, all-encompassing addiction with many others.
This book gives us the simple answer. Carnegie has answered the greatest question in all philosophy. What makes us successful and happy? Improving your social aptitude so you can enjoy relationships and participating in cohesive social units. Yet, myself included, we all think of this book as some kooky self-help book, a semi-cultish seminar group with limited effectiveness and maximum kitsch. But the thing is, you don’t read this book to become a better supervisor and make more money. That is the lesson that Dennis Hof took away and that I would argue most Americans would take away. This book is just another shortcut to wealth and individual achievement. What this book truly teaches is that you read it to become a better social human, the human you were intended to become, a member of a social unit, a we, an us, instead of an I or me. Once you start identifying yourself more as a we and us instead of an I or me, you get it. You are now more of a social being than an individual being, and your goals are no longer selfish goals but social goals. Of course public schools and most private schools would never teach the methods in this book or social aptitude in general, but my one hope for humanity would be that we figure this out and start teaching our children social aptitude as intensely and comprehensively as any other subject or field for it is the most important and critical subject of all for humans. To grow up without learning social aptitude for a human is like a lion never learning to hunt, a dolphin never learning to swim, a sparrow never learning to fly. We define ourselves not only through our intelligence but our social abilities, and arguably, our social abilities are just as critical as our intelligence to our survival.
The Grand Graft also relies on the Grand Propaganda, and that is the worship and idolatry of the individual. As a libertarian, I am as greater a proponent of individual liberty and rights as anyone else, but this does not mean I am an individualist. We like to think the West was won by rugged individualism, but this is all wrong. It was won by small social units over large social units, in fact, the West was won the old way, through small groups working closely together rather than the large bureaucracies of large cities in the East and Europe. Yet, the individualist propaganda remains. We are all led to believe in self-help, self-improvement, self-actualization, self-enhancement, self-empowerment, and all we get is self-delusion. The more we focus on the self and individual, the more alienated, isolated, and disenfranchised we become, because it is not all about the self and individual. To improve ourselves, we need not look too deeply into ourselves but rather outside ourselves. Even in dealing with our own traumas and childhood hardships, we do not look inside as much as outside. We develop an understanding of our parents and siblings, not to excuse them or rationalize their motivations, but rather to comprehend how and why they did what they did to us. We then move on to looking outside to shift our focus from them and us to others, others who are not as anti-social and destructive. If you grew up abused or traumatized, living the rest of your life alone will do nothing but condemn you for the rest of your life to a focus on your perpetrators and yourself as a victim. The only way to crowd them out of your mind and soul is to welcome in healthier, more social people. If only we focused more on social-help, social-improvement, social-actualization, social-enhancement, and social-empowerment.
The old line is that your old social groups are harmful and archaic. Old school religion is bigoted and oppressive. Your old school parents are old-fashioned and too conservative. Your old school town is too small and culturally impoverished. Everything old is bad, and everything new is good. The fetish with novelty leads you to believe in and worship every new fad, trend, and fashion. But these are all lies. If you go further back in history before the Industrial and Agricultural Ages, we lived in close-knit groups that empowered each other. Certainly they had their irrational traditions and clan warfare, but they also possessed great wisdom about how we were social beings, closely tied, highly accountable, responsible, and compassionate. We have much to learn from the past and fear from new trends never tested before. While we are improving in many areas for instance women’s rights, gay rights, medicine, let us not forget that in many ancient cultures women had as many rights and nobody thought of gays as anything more unusual than anyone else. Modern medicine has many benefits but arguably as many side effects and failures. We medicate our children with side effects like suicidal tendencies and homicidal rage. And if civilization is so much better than our ancestral tribal lives, how do you explain genocide, racism, slavery, global wars, and MAD, the threat of global destruction for sake of ideological purity?
When you start to learn and apply any new skill, you will naturally feel awkward and the new material will seem foreign and you will feel fake and unnatural. This is natural. This is a core part of learning. You don’t learn to walk but standing up and putting one leg in front of the other in a graceful way. You fall awkwardly and feel absolutely unnatural and frustrated. I had a boss who once told me that he’s just not the praising boss type of guy, because he feels giving praise seems fake. Well, yes, at first. To this day, he is one of the worst bosses I’ve ever had in my life and overall one of the most unhappy people I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting. Oddly enough, everything about his exterior persona is fake including his ubiquitous fake smile. While we all want to be authentic to ourselves, we must also learn new skills which may seem overly conscious, scripted, and insincere until we can learn to be more natural and autonomous in being friendly, giving, and compassionate. Over time, you get to learn that some people will always be fake when trying to appear friendly, because for them, being friendly will always be foreign and a rarity. When I first read the title of this book, I said to myself, “I don’t want to have to think about winning friends and influencing people, because then it all seems fake and contrived, and I don’t want to be a fake and contrived person.” This is absurd. Certainly, we don’t want to spend our lives purposefully and consciously going out there constantly trying to win friends and influence people. We want a natural authentic life where winning friends and influencing people is just a natural thing that we do unconsciously in the course of making friends and hanging out with people. But fact is, it takes conscious effort to learn. Unlike most all other animals, we are not born with pre-coded software. Much of our software is coded throughout our childhood, and unfortunately, we didn’t get the social aptitude software upgrades throughout childhood, so yes, as adults, we must install this pack of social aptitude. It may feel awkward and contrived at first, but with practice it will become more natural.
One good way of looking at this book is not to ask is this is the way you want to treat others but rather if this is the way you want others to treat you. If you can say yes, then you should adopt its advice whole heartedly.
One of the interesting meta things about this book is the date it was originally published 1936. Carnegie uses countless rather old examples to underscore his points, but it also gives away the culture of the time. People read in those days. Unlike the 50’s through the 90’s, culture was not dominated by a few broadcast TV stations that all pretty much thought and acted alike. There was diversity. I believe, one of the main problems of modern America is that everyone pretty much learned to think alike between the 50’s and 90’s because of the advent and success of broadcast television, and as such, they embraced what is now known as mainstream culture, thoughts, politics, and views. But today, mainstream is now owned by corporate America. Fortunately, there is the Internet and countless sources of information, ideas, cultures, politics, and views. I may be wrong, but I get the feeling that America was becoming an increasingly enlightened, idealistic, wealthy, and liberal society at the beginning of the 20th century. Americans had increased leisure time and many spent it reading, becoming more educated, as well more healthy and fit. There were many crazes, among them roller skating, bicycling, and tennis. What happened? I believe it was the Great Depression and then immediately following World War II where many more Americans were deployed than in World War I. America lost faith in a free society and the free market and I think many thought that it was the liberalism of the 1920’s that caused the Great Depression and mass suffering. Of course it wasn’t. It was the rise of trusts, cartels, and collusion between the banking system and corporations.
One reason I think I also avoided reading this book was that perhaps I didn’t want to win friends and influence people. When you start taking in the suggestions of this book, you may discover yourself rather popular, and of course, you may have to ask yourself, do you want to be a popular person who is praised by his peers and whose company is sought after? Are you happy be a loner? Surely, a few times you get depressed and lonely, but isn’t that better than constantly being showered with attention and praise? Looking back, however, I would have to argue that my greatest accomplishments in life and my greatest assets are related to or the result of other people. There were moments in my life where I was a loner, and I didn’t like myself then, and looking back, I’m not fond of that person now. Being popular certainly may come across to you as unfamiliar and foreign and strange, but I assure you, it’s worth the hassle of attention to gain from the energy, skill, wisdom, and friendship of others.
I don’t believe most people will read this book in its entirety. There are perhaps one too many examples for each lesson. While colorful and interesting, it also becomes exhausting and distracting. The following is a simple summary of everything you should do to win friends and influence people:
Don’t be a jerk. Don’t criticize and blame others. Criticism only encourages defensiveness, resentment, and hostility.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated and needed. Make people feel like they are appreciated and their contributions are valued. They will love you for it.
Take an interest in what other people are interested in. Make their interests seem interesting and relevant to you. Nobody cares what you think until you show that you care what they think.
Smile. Don’t fake smile. I had a boss who fake smiled all the time except when he was blind with rage. A real smile comes from the heart, from a genuine desire to come across as warm and pleasant.
Remember a person’s name.
Be a good active listener. Don’t interrupt. Explore their ideas and interests.
Talk about the other person’s interests. Everyone decorates their home or office with pieces of themselves that arouse fond memories of something. It’s an invitation for them to tell you a story they cherish.
Again, make the person feel appreciated. Let’s say he has one thousand different types of paper clips. Who cares right? Tell him what an accomplishment it is to collect so many different types of paper clips and ask him what made him start doing it.
Avoid arguing with someone. If they are wrong, especially in the company of others, don’t point it out.
Don’t humiliate people and lower their self-esteem by trying to prove that they are wrong.
If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. Chances are, the other person will defend you not join in on the attack.
Never confront people. Always start out friendly.
If you want someone to agree with you, start out by encouraging him to agree with you on smaller things.
If a person is upset, let them vent and talk it out.
Let the other person feel like they are contributing to your idea or even that your idea is theirs.
Try to see the other person’s point of view.
Nothing works better with an upset person than saying, “I would be just as angry if I was you.” Empathize.
Appeal to nobler motives. If you want a kid to stop smoking, tell him, “I know you’re a good kid and you have a younger brother who looks up to you, and I know you wouldn’t want him to take up smoking just because you smoke.”
Dramatize your ideas instead of arguing them.
Throw down a challenge. People like to be challenged and to play games. “I bet you can’t clean up this room in an hour. In fact, it would surprise me if you did it in 45 minutes.”
On being a leader:
If you are going to correct someone, begin with praise and honest appreciation. This is the Novocain dentists use before drilling.
Be indirect about correcting someone. One example I have is when this non-profit leader visited the non-profit HQ with his group and he put his bags down for someone in his group to carry it. The President of the non-profit picked up the guy’s bags and carried it.
Talk about your own shortcomings and mistakes before noting someone else’s.
Ask questions instead of giving orders. “Could you help me out and make ten copies of this?”
Let the other person save face.
Always praise, even slight improvements.
Give the person a fine reputation to live up to. “I know you’re one of the most honest people here. This is why I’m letting you close the shop.”
Make the fault seem easy to correct.
Make the other person happy about doing what you want them to do.
So why can’t everyone be like this? Fact is, most people tend to be, from birth. We are the most social creatures in nature. We are born with a deep desire to be appreciated by others and avoid humiliation and isolation. As I mentioned above, we live in a society that does not value our social tendencies as assets but rather as tools with which to manipulate us. As submissive, obedient pawns, we also tend to mimic the behavior of others, so when other people abuse us, we turn around and try to abuse them or others. Also, large groups, stress, short deadlines, scarcity, and hardship also bring out the anti-social tendencies in us all. We need to keep practicing these pro-social skills in order to become experts at it even under the greatest amount of stress and pressure, when they actually count the most and mark the true nature of a great person. http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Frien…/…/ref=tmm_mmp_swatch_0…