The genius of Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends’
At one time, Errol Morris had a top one-hundred book list on his Internet homepage, and sitting at first spot was a book by Dale Carnegie titled ‘How To Stop Worrying & Start Living.’
I was intrigued. I picked it up, and now it’s a sorry, battered, dog-eared pile of pages due to my constant handling of it. I connect with that book, quite a bit, though over the years I kept hearing about Carnegie’s other book, one much more famous, called ‘How To Win Friends & Influence People.’
I avoided this other book for some five years. People: who needs them! Well, it turns out that even introverts like myself can benefit from this best-seller written back in the Depression era. As crazy as it sounds, this little book from 1936, one which at the time of its writing was geared towards flat-footed salesmen, is an absolute must-have for creative types.
‘How To Win Friends’ is a book that if you hear about it once, you will likely hear about it again and again. In fact, during the course of a single week recently, a handful of Silicon Vally influencers, namely, Joe Armstrong & Paul Graham, said, go study this book! Of course, they’re lauding it as mandatory reading material for managers, but, I can tell you, ‘How To Win Friends’ has a secret within that can help creative types all the same.
I don’t know about you, but when things go wrong, my self-chatter is pretty loquacious:
‘Why did I do that?’
‘Why aren’t I good enough!’
‘I should just quit!’
It’s strange to write these down, to be honest. Now, it seems, these thoughts are from a different life — I just don’t resort to this sort of self-criticism any longer. Though, I never for one second thought there’d be a time when the self-critic simply absconded from its post after decades of faithful service.
You may be wondering, how did a book about influencing people change the way one treats oneself?
In ‘How To Win Friends,’ there’s chapter after chapter about how not to treat people. It’s all good stuff, and once you put it into practice, sure, people are a lot easier to deal with across the board. But what do you know it: the tactics in dealing with others gets graphed onto the very manner one treats oneself! Though, I think this may be a bug, not a feature, of ‘How To Win Friends.’
It’s as though you loose the fitness for things like criticism, fault-finding, insulting, jabbing, seeking credit, stealing conversation — all things Carnegie writes at length about — and pretty quickly, the list of no-nos for dealing with people, simply doesn’t get employed on oneself any longer, either. Naturally, those negative instincts ossify over time when not exercised habitually.
Remarkably, a book about how to manage others, sales, and boring things around HR, applies one-to-one to how we treat persona uno.
When I practice scales, for the first few minutes, they are out of tune and my bow rarely allows the high notes to speak with any decent sonority. Normally, my self-chatter starts up in earnest and I begin calling out strikes as though there was an umpire sitting on my shoulder. And no surprise, this self-criticism would pressure me to mess up more, not less; it was never helpful.
After reading ‘How To Win Friends,’ and following the lessons therein, when violin perfection wasn’t achieved, the self-critique didn’t chime in as usual. The self-critic had lost his voice!
I was so used to holding my criticisms back when dealing with others, that the automatic critic wasn’t in any fitness to chime in on cue towards my own blunders any longer. Now, when I missed a note, I would just give a little smile, and repeat the passage until it sounded good.
How to influence yourself
Who would have thought that treating others well would carry with it the magical side-effect of improving how you treat yourself. But that’s exactly what’s in store for anyone who tackles the lessons in ‘How To Win Friends.’
If you have a strong muscle-memory to jump on yourself, every time you mess up in your craft, life, or otherwise, ‘How To Win Friends’ may be the elixir that could quell that negative self-chatter.