January 2012

How to Win Friends and Influence People

As the youngest of seven kids growing up in rural Wisconsin my memory was that we had a lot of some things (strife, bickering, togetherness, chores, beets) and not enough of others (money, harmony, bikes, free time). My dad, who wanted to be George Jefferson but was trapped in the mindset of Archie Bunker was a big fan of the self help/self improvement books, which in the 70s, were just then developing as a full-fledged, if not fully respected genre.

Every day at 6 am breakfast my dad would slam his hand down on the table and say “Dale Carnegie said “every man is just about as happy as he made up his mind he's going to be.” I am pretty sure that wasn't a Dale Carnegie quote, and it was lost on the groggy under ten set, but was consistent with his ardor: this was an every morning tradition.

We were highly encouraged to read Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People as soon as we were cognitively able. My dad would also institute what he called “Dale Carnegie Days” usually on rainy Sundays when our bickering got to be too much. On Dale Carnegie Days if said anything that wouldn't fall under his suggestion of “winning friends” and/or “influencing people” (ie name calling, being critical, talking ill of another person who was not present etc) we had to go to bed 15 minutes early for each of the incidents. I can recall going to bed as early as 4.15 once.

Living More With Less

I first picked up a copy of Doris Janzen Longacre's book Living More With Less when I was living in Haiti. I was searching for models of simplicity and simple living, that made sense considering the poverty I was seeing, juxtaposed with the unbelievable conspicuous consumption machine that is the United States.

The first edition was largely practical and I'm not sure how much of it I found helpful in Haiti or when I returned home. However, I recently got my hands on the 30th Anniversary Edition of Living More With Less, and it's been an amazing inspiration.