I resisted reading this book for a long time.
Something about the title seemed too manipulative. Friends are people that you win? People are to be influenced?
“I suppose that’s cool for people who want to use people,” I said. “But, that’s not my thing!”
On a whim, I went against my caustic inner critic and picked this book up at a local Fedex. Yes, it’s sold at Fedex. And why not - I needed something to read on the Metro. Anything but staring at my phone’s no service indicator and hitting refresh on Twitter/Instagram/whatever.
I thought I was going to eyeroll through this book, but I loved it.
It is a peaceful and compelling read about how to get along with people.
With all of the vitriol in the world right now, the most punkass and revolutionary thing to be in 2019 is a kind and considerate person who listens deeply to others.
And … that’s what Dale Carnegie is all about. He doesn’t want his students to go yell at people for making mistakes - he wants them to observe carefully and listen.
What’s funny about reading this book as a midcareer 32-year-old is seeing just how many other business nonfiction books owe to this books. Posts that float across LinkedIn that once seemed really original and charming to me are turning out to be quotes or homages or straight up velcro ripoffs of Dale Carnegie.
“Be Genuinely Interested In People” is one cornerstone of the book that struck me as something that many, many people had said and tweeted and posted, and I thought it was all their idea! Nope, it was Dale all along.
For artists and businesspeople alike, being genuinely interested in others is probably the most important thing that we can do. It’s too easy to be interested in only yourself - the greatest joy of art is making things happen for others, or, seeing your work delight others, or seeing your work make others think in a positive way.
I loved most of all the excepts about Abraham Lincoln. It was nice to see that Dale Carnegie went over how Lincoln changed and transformed his approach from being a sour critic to someone who didn’t even send a “I am disappointed” letter to one of his failed generals. (Lincoln’s unsent letter to General Meade here)
I wish I had read this book when I was 16, but I don’t think it would have made as much sense reading it as a 32 year old. At 32 I have enough experience in business and the world to say “Yes, this book gets it.” There are simply ways to work with people that are better than others, and the better that you understand people, the easier everything becomes. Without understanding, you just sort of stumble in the dark and probably get angry.
Is it a zen book then?
It’s more built like a class, and it was a foundation of one of the first modern self-improvement classes ever. I’d love to see this book be transcended, but when it’s anecdotalizing the socratic method, it’s easy to see how with minor updates, the principles of Win Friends will hang on for 80 more years. Our ways of understanding and navigating human nature may change, maybe, but not nature itself.
In a few more centuries, Win Friends will read like The Book of Five Rings, where the anecdotes are ancient, but the mappability is eternal. On long enough timescale, the anecdotes from Win Friends about lumber sales and Lincoln’s armies will feel the same as samurai sword poems: These are dramas of deep and unchangeable human psychologies, we are merely navigating the transactions of our times.
Recently I attended an executive meetup where an author admitted that he had titled his book with an inflammatory title. At the end of his talk he relayed to us what the true, more tame title of the book should have been.
“It’s too bad,” he said, “but the book’s true title would have never sold any books.”
Win Friends is like this - it has a title like direct sunlight flashing in your eyes, but there are many titles for this book that would have been more honest. In this humble artist’s opinion, the book should have been called: “How to Win at Life by Being Observant and Considerate”
But then, nobody would buy a book with such a title. But then again, this blog is written by someone who bought and ascribes to "The Keys.” We the best. I think you should read it if you haven’t, and especially if your more ethical daemons have told you to resist it.
Even President Lincoln had criticisms that he wanted to say to people, but he never did. Perhaps this is the point.
The best engineers on the planet have nothing on midlevel engineers who can communicate ideas.
It’s not about the people we influence, it’s about the friends we win along the way. Actually it’s about listening to people and being genuinely interested in them