Friday, August 14, 2015

Read Like Crazy: How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was on my must-read list for ages. I knew it as a book that all people with ambition are supposed to read early in life. As a person of high ambition, I told myself time and time again I needed to get my hands on a copy. Part of me is sad I put it off as long as I did. Another part believes that this past month was the fated time for me to finally get around to reading it.

One of the profoundest realities of humanity is reiterated in every one of Carnegie’s principles—that the best things we can do for ourselves are usually the simplest; they often cost us nothing, though they seem to cost us much. To do them requires conscious effort, and in the moment many of these common-sense actions seem to fly in the face of our impulse. But what relief is found when we give them a try! Learning to smile genuinely; remembering people’s names, regardless of their status or education or direct relevance to our lives; biting our tongues in the face of argument. We hear these concepts purported by people of prominence, but do we make a point to apply them? 

The answer is my case was: Rarely. Many of the ideas outlined in this compilation were not foreign to me, and had in fact been used to my advantage at different phases in my life. Lately, however, I had developed the need to have the last word in any debate. I had heard myself interrupting people and yet not stopped myself… I had thought kind appreciations of the people around me but kept quiet, even when I had no restraint when it came to criticism. This book brought those ugly realities to the surface, and with story after true story, proved that the higher road would have yielded better results for me and everyone involved. If I wanted to be the “most progressive man,” as C. S. Lewis might have put it, I needed to turn off the path I was on and head back to the place where I lost sight of what was good and right.

I read this book because I thought it would be good for me as a woman who strives to work for herself, but I’ve come out of it better all around. It takes a great book to change me without my having to commit strategies and acronyms and pneumonic devices to memory. The first day I returned to my workweek after starting this book, I found myself tempted to use the principles I’d read thus far and discovered them acutely changing my most peevish relationships and work scenarios. The true test will be whether the habits I formed almost overnight are long-lasting.

What I liked about this book: This book is filled with real-life accounts of the outlined principles in action. As a writer, I appreciate stories. As a debater, I appreciate proof. This book, somewhere between an inspirational read and a self-help book, is both a page-turner and practical. 

Additionally, the book re-awoke in me the things I know to be the best path to success and reminded me why they matter.

What I didn’t like about this book: Occasionally, I feel that Carnegie makes insinuations about sects of people, particularly political and religious affiliations, and I believe he does this consciously. This practice is counterintuitive to Carnegie's preached self-awareness. On the flip side, the fact that it comes off as abrasive lends proof to some of his theories about causing dissension by making others feel wrong or foolish. He just might have wanted to take a page out of his own book. This said, 98% of the book is diplomatic and easy to read.

Would I buy this book: Yes. Consider this a glowing recommendation: How to Win Friends and Influence People started to change my life on the very first day. If you can’t afford it now, at least look for it at your local library.

Normally I would include a selection of “quotes for the fridge,” but this book is not particularly quotable, as most of the lessons are taught through stories. There are some proverbial truths, but most of them are not Carnegie’s; they’re from philosophers or ancient Chinese culture or religious and political leaders, used to enhance a greater point. But more of this book is memorable than 90% of other inspirational reads I’ve taken on combined. If you read it through—twice, as recommended by the author—you will carry it with you. I promise.

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