The crux of Dale’s message is that we should all discover who we are – and must become or remain that person. In his thinking, not being yourself is behind a great many neuroses, psychoses and complexes. The most miserable person is one who is longing to be something other than what and who they really are. This inevitably leads to the realisation that each person is unique, with their their own skillsets, needs and so on. A person must make the most of who they are and must develop more than the standard 10 percent of their latent personality and mental strength than does the standard person.
So much wisdom is held between the pages of this book. For example, when the writer states that all art is autobiographical, that you can only be what made you, that envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide…
But this is not a book about working so hard you drop or learning to relax and become mindful. It’s more interesting than that. According to Dale, seeing an unending stretch of work ahead of you can breed neuroses. But it isn’t the work itself that’s the problem, it is is the way we deal with this work – people do not die from overwork, but instead die from worry.
The book recommends:
Organise your life. Solve problems there and then if you can – don’t put things off. Come to decisions. Get up early, plan your day and do things in order of their importance. Organise, deputise and supervise.
But it is important also to relax and ask yourself if you’re making your work harder than it actually is - because of your attitudes, and because of the way your body works. Work in comfort, and measure your accomplishments not by how tired you are at the end of it, but by how tired you are NOT.
I found the section on boredom particularly interesting. He believes that when you have no interest in tasks, they fatigue you, and that metabolism picks up when interest picks up. A person is not tired when exhilarated and achieving. From this it must be inferred that where your interest are is where your energy lies.
And, from this, we come to some of the most wonderful teachings in this book. Firstly, to make everything a game. Next, to work ‘as if ‘ you love what you’re doing, and look at things in depth to accumulate interest, giving yourself daily peptalks and concentrating on the 90% of what is right in your life. Counting blessings, not troubles.
Of course, this doesn’t always happen because we are naturally inclined to think the worst, especially in the face of negative feedback, but Dale tells us: ‘Remember that unjust criticicm is ofen a disguised compliment’. Also it is important to remember that other people aren’t listening to criticism of you as they are too busy thinking and worrying about themselves. This makes it even more important to ignore unjust criticism and become accustomed to it: ‘If you get yourself and your head above the crowd you will be criticised. So get used to it’.
It is connected with the fact that everyone wants to be important and appreciated - some people even going insane to find the importance that has been denied to them in life. Dale Carnegie quotes Emerson who said ‘Every man I meet is in some way my superior; and in that I can learn of him’ and we need to recognise this without undervaluing ourselves.
Many people believe that Dale Carnegie’s writings are outdated, and they have a point to an extent, but his thinking has also very much stood the test of time. You only need to go into Google and put in the title of this book to note a huge number of different book covers, indicative of the huge number of print runs.
People still read these books and find a lot within them. People still underline passages, or highlight them in luminous green. Dale Carnegie still has plenty to say to us and we would do well to listen.