How to Win Friends & Influence People
Gorilla Mindset, Mike Cernovich
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams
Win Bigly, Scott Adams
Pre-suasion, Richard Cialdini
The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale
And now, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
To those that know me, you may be wondering why I am so interested in the “personal development” genre of literature as of late. Of the many inspiring and educational stories, two stories from Carnegie’s book illustrate best what I have in mind while studying the lessons that he and the other great men above have taught. Here I will quote the stories in full. In the chapter titled Make The Fault Seem Easy To Correct, Carnegie writes,
Clarence M. Jones, one of the instructors of our course in Cincinnati, Ohio, told how encouragement and making faults seem easy to correct completely changed the life of his son.
“In 1970 my son David, who was then fifteen years old, came to live with me in Cincinnati. He had led a rough life. In 1958 his head was cut open in a car accident, leaving a very bad scar on his forehead. In 1960 his mother and I were divorced and he moved to Dallas, Texas, with his mother. Until he was fifteen he had spent most of his school years in special classes for slow learners in the Dallas school. Administrators had decided he was brain-injured and could not function at a normal level. He was two years behind his age group, so he was only in the seventh grade. Yet he did not know his multiplication tables, added on his fingers and could barely read.
There was one positive point. He loved to work on radio and TV sets. He wanted to become a TV technician. I encouraged this and pointed out that he needed math to qualify for the training. I decided to help him become proficient in this subject. We obtained four sets of flash cards: multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. As we went through the cards, we put the correct answers in a discard stack. When David missed one, I gave him the correct answer and then put the card in the repeat stack until there were no cards left. I made a big deal out of each card he got right, particularly if he had missed it previously. Each night we would go through the repeat stack until there were no cards left.
Each night we timed the exercise with a stop watch. I promised him that when he could get all the cards correct in eight minutes with no incorrect answers, we would quit doing it every night. This seemed an impossible goal to David. The first night it took 52 minutes, the second night, 48, the 45, 44, 41 then under 40 minutes. We celebrated each reduction. I’d call in my wife, and we would both hug him and we’d all dance a jig. At the end of the month he was doing all the cards perfectly in less than eight minutes. When he made a small improvement he would ask to do it again. He had made the fantastic discovery that learning was easy and fun.
Naturally his grades in algebra took a jump. It is amazing how much easier algebra is when you can multiply. He astonished himself by bringing home a B in math. That had never happened before. Other changes came with almost unbelievable rapidity. His reading improved rapidly, and he began to use his natural talents in drawing. Later in the school year his science teacher assigned him to develop an exhibit. He chose to develop a highly complex series of models to demonstrate the effect of levers. It required skill not only in drawing and model making but in applied mathematics. The exhibit took first prize in his school’s science fair and was entered in the city competition and won third prize for the entire city of Cincinnati.
That did it. Here was a kid who had flunked two grades, who had been told he was ‘brain-damaged,’ who had been called ‘Frankenstein’ by his classmates and told his brains must have leaked out of the cut on his head. Suddenly he discovered he could really learn and accomplish things. The result? From the last quarter of the eighth grade all the way through high school, he never failed to make the honor roll; in high school he was elected to the national honor society. When he found learning was easy, his whole life changed.”
It’s said that Americans love a good comeback story. From poverty to riches, from enslavement to freedom, from failure to success, Americans love the reversal of fortunes. There is something powerful in the idea that humans can overcome overwhelming odds against them. The comeback story tells us that there is strength in humanity, in country, in friends and family, in me. It tells us there’s hope. It tells us when we want something truly, we can have it. It tells us that the fears we have about the future can be defeated.
From brain-damaged to national honor society. From ashamed to proud. From boy to man. I want to have the strength of character to make this happen for myself and my own children if we ever face such adversity.
But, I’m not only looking at my own house. The consequences of not being strong, of lacking strength of character, can be far reaching and tragic. I’m deeply worried about the effects that I can have on the future if I don’t fix myself.
In 1915, in the middle of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson wanted to bring peace. William Jennings Bryan wanted to negotiate peace, but Wilson appointed Edward M. House, Bryan’s close friend. When House broke the news to Bryan, Bryan was understandable disappointed. But, House put it this way:
“The President thought it would be unwise for anyone to do this officially, and that his going would attract a great deal of attention and people would wonder why he was there…”
“You see the intimation? House practically told Bryan that he was too important for the job—and Bryan was satisfied.
Colonel House, adroit, experience in the ways of the world, was following one of the important rules of human relations: Always make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.”
Carnegie then tells another story of when Woodrow Wilson made someone feel important and happy to do something for him. Carnegie says of his methods, “He had a delightful way of putting things; he created the impression that by accepting this great honor I would be doing him a favor.”
However, it wasn’t all roses for Wilson. Carnegie writes,
“Unfortunately, Wilson didn’t always employ such taut. If he had, history might have been different.
For example, Wilson didn’t make the Senate and the Republican Party happy by entering the United States in the League of Nations. Wilson refused to take such prominent Republican leaders as Elihu Root or Charles Evans Hughes or Henry Cabot Lodge to the peace conference with him. Instead, he took along unknown men from his own party. He snubbed the Republicans, refused to let them feel that the League was their idea as well as his, refued to let them have a finger in the pie; and, as a result of this crude handling of human relations, wrecked his own career, ruined his health, shortened his life, caused America to stay out of the League, and altered the history of the world.”
The stakes are too high for good people to neglect learning and living the lessons that people like Carnegie have taught. The future isn’t set in stone. We make it. It is the duty of good people to make the future. We can’t let broken, corrupt people make the future, or else we have no future at all.
That’s why I’m reading Carnegie, Peale, Adams, Cialdini, and Cernovich. I believe wholeheartedly that the future of humanity may depend on my actions some day. Will I directly influence the future of humanity, or will I influence someone else who does the influencing? I don’t know.
When Carnegie writes story after story of important people in our history who were influenced by others because they were genuinely interested in other people, I listen. When he tells story after story about the transformative power of praise, I take notes and look inward. I may be able to fix the world through merely recognizing someone else’s achievement. I may be able to destroy the world by ignoring their achievement. That person could be a friend, a student, a neighbor, or a stranger online. I don’t know. Nobody knows what power we have to influence the future. But, we do know that we can influence it. The potential to achieve greatness or cause disaster is there for everybody.
If you want to join the honored ranks of those who have influenced the future toward the good, then you should read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
For those that have made it to the end, here are the top five things I learned from the book.