Dale Carnegie, Where Have You Been My Whole Life?

Worthwhile reading

I recently finished How to Win Friends & Influence People cover to cover. It had some fantastic insights into the fragile human psyche.

In part one, Carnegie talks about the fundamental techniques in handling people and espouses three principles:

1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Think about how easy it is to criticize someone. If given the chance to name 10 things you would want to change in another person, I bet you that you could do that much faster than naming 10 things you admire about that same person.

Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof, when your own doorstep is unclean. – Confucius

I will tell you a story about how I learned to ride a bicycle. When I was in grade 2, many of my playmates were proficient in riding their bicycle without training wheels. Unlike them, I lacked the innate poise and balance it took to ride the two-wheeled beast. I struggled and feared that I would crash into the jagged cement side walk. (No doubt, a fear instilled in me by my Asian upbringing.) One day, my teacher announced that we would be taking a field trip to the “safety village,” and this meant that we all had to bring our helmets and ride bikes according to the road rules. Only problem was that I did not want my other classmates to find out that I was riding with training wheels still. Oh the horror! The shame!

So from that day forth, I made a promise to myself that I would learn how to ride my bicycle without training wheels. My teacher had instilled in me an eager want. I love my parents to death, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t inspiring me or building up my confidence. I was fought with contradictory information. My Dad played the tough love card — he would tease me and tell me there was nothing to it. All the while, my Mom smothered me in support and told me it was okay to still be learning. So here I was, a very confused 7 year old with a dilemma. I ran through the scenarios: fake an illness, make excuses, or just ride the goddamn bike.

Then one day while playing with my neighbours, I had the sudden urge to take my neighbour’s toddler bike and ride it sans training wheels. I was shaky at first, but I could easily put my feet down if I felt unsteady. Then miraculously I was balancing with both feet on the pedals. Oh, the exhilaration of achieving my goal and overcoming my fears! With this boost of confidence I urged my Dad to remove both training wheels from my “big girl” bike. And I proudly rode down the side walk with sparkling pink streamers dancing in the breeze.

As you can see from this story, the teasing and criticism I received brought forth guilt and shame. And none of this was going to help me learn how to ride a bike. I almost gave up riding my bike altogether. But what good would that have done? I would have missed out on the weekly bicycle trips to the park, the freedom to visit the neighbourhood kids, and of course the field trip.

© Ash Lindsey Photography / Flickr

I  must confess, I’m rather stubborn and prideful. I wanted more than anything to ride that bicycle without the ridicule I knew second graders would pass on. If I knew this life lesson at age 7, what made me forget it? We all know how we can sound like broken records, nagging to our significant others, friends, or children. And yet, we still expect that because we are saying it with threats and raised voices that it will accomplish anything.

The real truth of the matter is that you can’t force a stubborn mule to move with a whip alone. You’ll also need a carrot.

I’ll continue to write about the book in my next post. There are three parts altogether, and I feel that this knowledge should be spread far and wide!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: