Some Title: in just a few hundred pages, imagine winning the love and affection of the world and learning how to manipulate people to get rich! See that? ‘Over 70 Years in Print!’? Yeah, I believe it too.
But just a few pages in you discover the paradox. You were tricked! It’s about your Ego: with a title like that, it’s safe to assume the reason you pick up this book is Ego. But only a few minutes in and already Carnegie is telling you to be caring, and listen to people, and shut your mouth for a few minutes and sincerely listen to other people. This is really really hard and totally not what you signed up for right?
Same here. This obsession with giving and helping, and nurturing people answers the question, “What the hell do people want from me?” but also confounds us with another, “Who in the world has the discipline and motivation to do this?” There’s an example when Carnegie is at the Post Office and thinks to himself, ‘I’m going to make this Postal Worker’s day — that’s all I’m gonna do. I’m gonna try to make him smile. ‘ On very limited information, he compliments the Postal Worker’s full head of hair (as Carnegie by this time was quite balding). And the Postal Worker feels like a million buck and Carnegie walks away feeling great. But that’s it. No free stamps. Nothing. No ulterior motives. So, this stuff turns out to be incredibly easy … as long as you’re not trying to manipulate people (nevermind that manipulating people is sort of alluded to in the title.. ahem).
Manipulation aside, there is even more pure gold in here, such as: never ever ever ever ever attack someone personally. By doing so (eg. getting into a healthy argument at work, and pointing fingers, accusing your colleagues of being lazy, or criticizing their decisions) you eliminate any chance of cooperation or civil discussion. Why? Because when you insult me, my priority goes from ‘finding the truth through discussion’ to ‘defending my own ego which is suddenly under attack’. The best way to defend myself is to beat you in an argument, restoring self-respect/honour/whatever. Carnegie even takes that principle to the limit by complimenting people when they screw up: it’s the same idea; when someone knows they screwed up, they are already beating themselves up. They don’t need you to pile on, they need you to show your faith in them to learn from their mistakes. This kind of thing involves assuming the best in people, a certain positivity that people love on a personal level, and relish in a professional relationship. Have you ever tried to compliment someone who just screwed up the big account? How about a waiter who just dropped a bunch of drinks on his first day? Of course not. No one does this stuff. It’s not until you start moving up in your career, bigger and bigger roles, that you start coming across very successful people that take a different approach to ‘obstacles’ and ‘challenges’. Flattery doesn’t work. We all have our own internal bullshit detectors. The compliment has to be sincere. That’s the key to all this stuff. You actually have to already be a pretty great person.
I know, I was massively disappointed to hear it too.
Another huge theme is ‘Obsess with other people’s desires’ in every interaction you have with people. Again, this seems totally insane. Imagine if the richest people in the world (Zuckerberg, Gates, P. Diddy and Warren Buffet, and the Mexican Telecom Guy) and you overheard a discussion they were having about how they were just obsessed with serving the customer/user. It’s as if these guys are distracted/annoyed that they’re actually incredibly wealthy. Then again, I am reminded of that great line when Bill Gates years ago was asked if he had a financial dollar amount (eg. as a goal, driving him to succeed) back when he started Microsoft; his answer was to quip, “If I did, don’t you think I would have passed it by now?” The answer is brilliant: it’s not that Bill was extremely driven by money –quite the opposite — it’s that he was extremely driven by greatness and great products, and changing the world with his companies products. That’s why he didn’t slack off when the company got bigger and bigger. So maybe the Meeting of the Moneybags scenario wasn’t too crazy after all.
Okay, back to you. How do you talk? Do you talk about your needs? Or the other guy’s? How do you write emails? Are they always framed around what YOU want? Or the recipient’s? Right. This is subtle but incredibly powerful stuff.
And it’s stuff, again, that you’d have to be almost insane to just naturally do…you have to work really hard, because otherwise your selfish egotistical tendencies are on autopilot. You have to have someone sit you down and walk you through this. Or you just observe that people around you, who are successful, seem to act like this (like Carnegie did).
So where do I stand on this thing, overall? How to make the two seemingly polar opposites (our Egos desire for fame and fortune, and the need for Sincerity to get famous and, ahem, rich) come together? In the end, there is no trick. No manipulation. No pickup line. Even worse, you’re asked to be sincerely complimentary of those around you, especially when they screw up. And you’re meant to listen to people (shut up for a second) even when what they’re saying is factually incorrect (or batshit crazy). Oh man. What a pain in the butt this Nice Guy stuff is.
On the other hand, maybe the problem isn’t that we don’t know how to be ‘nice’ but that we’re too damn insecure that we can’t let a “wasn’t-jeff-bridges-in-that-austin-powers-movie?” go by without opening up a can of nerd-rage-whoop-ass. The desire to be right, to correct others’ grammar, to show off, to talk about yourself is annoying as hell, and if you can just be conscious (make that super conscious) of yourself next time you’re about to tell another super boring story, or correct somebody, or cut someone off, you can just shut your mouth.
You hear that? You’re already ahead of the game.
At this stage, don’t even think about trying to get everyone in the world to like you because it’s almost impossible. And more importantly, it’s a hugely insecure and pathetic goal. But Carnegie had to use it to sell his book. Because he knew (or rather, his editors knew) that most people foolishly would be pulled in by that. Most people think that’s actually an admirable goal: to be liked by everyone and to control those around them. In fact, by the time you finish this book, you find the prescription to be almost diametrically opposed to the original ‘goal’ of the book. Awk-waard.
Can you sincerely compliment everyone in your family? Yes. Can you sincerely compliment everyone on the subway during rush hour? Probably not. But who cares? Once you understand the principles of what it means to not be an abrasive douche, you can walk this Earth being one of the coolest guys/gals around. As a result you’ll be invited to parties, you’ll be asked to speak at Weddings, and people at the Office will share more ideas with you, knowing that you won’t immediately point out 11 reasons why their ideas are lame (and by the way, you thought of something similar about 3 years ago, but never acted on it, because it was so stupid). You can just chill back, and really listen to people, really pay attention to them. And you’ll see one guy or one girl that looks particularly distracted, and you can inquire, with sincerity, what’s going on. To be genuinely interested in others is to be genuinely interested in the world around you, to be genuinely interested in life. Take this approach with you everywhere you go, and you’ll never be bored another day in your life.
Then, and only then will people speak of you glowingly as exceedingly interesting and even charismatic. Hopefully by then you won’t let it go to your head.