The most important self-help book I’ve ever read

“I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish.” — Dale Carnegie

There are a bazillion self-help books out there, all of which tell you what you can do about yourself to make your life more wonderful.  I’ve dipped into many of them and, while some had useful factoids, and some were more charmingly written than others, I don’t think any self-help book has ever contained a more important message than the original self-help book:  Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People, written in 1936, at the height of the Great Depression.

Stripped of its charming anecdotes, Carnegie’s message was a simple one:  you can improve your own life by making other people feel good about theirs.  That’s it.  Carnegie did not advocate sycophantic flattery or lies.  He simply said that most people want others to think well of and appreciate them.  Show other people that you do indeed feel this way about them and their work, and they will be happy to demonstrate to you the best side of their personality and the best work that they do.

The world would be a much better, and very much nicer, place if more people heeded Carnegie’s lesson.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Ron19

    A young lady was taken to dinner one evening by Gladstone and the following evening by Disraeli. Asked what impressions these two celebrated men had made upon her, she replied, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.”

  • Ron19

    Sex, Love, or Infatuation: How Can I Really Know? by Ray E. Short

    Apologies in advance, I’m trying to do this quote from memory. 

    Short gave his definition of each; I’ll give two of them here,

    Infatuation:  I love what you do for me.

    Love:  You love what I do for you.

    Infatuation peaks early and then starts to fade out.  Real love starts slowly, and grows slowly; if it is growing stronger when the infatuation is fading, then the relationship can stay strong and worthwhile.  Bringing in sex earlier rather than later, can be blinding and can hide how the relationship is progressing in other ways.

    I read this book between spouses, and it was a big help on analyzing what was going on in me and what should be going on, as I looked for and found my “trophy” wife, as she calls herself.  She’s older then me, so I think I’m the “trophy,” but it works either way.  In a two year period I had found and carefully evaluated about a dozen candidates good to excellent as related to my needs and wants; the less than good were quickly evaluated and passed by.

    Our tenth anniversary was last year.  There have been problems and disagreements, but no regrets on my part.

  • Ron19

    When I first read How to Win Friends and Influence People, I thought, ‘WOW!  This is a great book!”

    I quickly read it a second time and thought, “Wow, how can I get the people I interact with in my life to read this book before I interact with them?”

    And soon read it a third time, and thought, “Hmmm.  What changes do I need to make in myself to put this book to good use?”

    That was about twenty years ago.  The book has been good to me and good for me.  I occasionally read it again.

  • Ymarsakar

    I started on the other end.

    Cheap Shots Ambushes and other Lessons

    Although I read that book in the middle of my journey, more or less, the title does explain things in a neat fashion.

     I eventually arrived at Carnegie’s subject matter, but from a round a bout course. Before a person can utilize Carnegie’s methods, first they must find self confidence, which is another way of saying true belief. There are things people believe in, like “I like chocolate”, and then there are things people believe in like “we’re going to charge that cockpit door, this is Flight 93”. There’s a significant difference in power levels between those two beliefs. Irregardless of the popularity or infamy of the choices. Until a person has a strong foundation, they can only bluff their way even if they use Carnegie’s methods. It becomes a way of flattery, because the powerful have no need to flatter, they simply speak the truth.

    True warriors don’t make promises, for every word out of their mouth is bound by honor. Remember that if a person never got into the habit of dealing with other people’s problems, they will not act as natural as they could. To habituate people to a certain mode of behavior, they are told to give their word on a condition or to conform their behavior to a condition. Thus I believe the world would be just as cruel even if everybody used Carnegie’s methods, because the true heart of the matter would be missing, necessarily. A person with no real confidence or heart, will end up attempting to manipulate other people using such methods. Obama, for example, certainly makes people think a certain way after meeting them. They come away bedazzled and believing in the Messiah.


  • Mike Devx

    Obama bedazzles the gullible.  He’s like the Friday and Saturday night player at the bar scene.  You would tire of him quickly if you spent any length of time around him.

    People with integrity track a man like Obama and ask:  Are his actions consistent with his words?  Do the things he say continue to make sense as the weeks pass?  Does he remain consistent and reliable?  Can I trust him, can I trust his word?

    Obama is ALL over the place.  He says things that are blatantly contradictory, but never in the same news cycle, and we’ve all been conditioned to forget about all but the most recent news cycles.  Short term goals, short term memory, short term everything.  Obama is perfect for our conditioned short term attention spans.  He gets away with all of it.

  • Mark

    Hi Bookworm, I loved this book too about six or seven years ago. However, since then I’ve come to an even deeper understanding: all this nice stuff, making people feeling good about themselves etc., is only a TACTIC. Why does Dale Carnegie dangle a worm in front of a fish in the first place? To catch it! In my words: to win. It’s all about winning. The goal is to win, and in order to do that, often times the tactic “being nice” works. However, a true winner is able to switch tactics when neccesary. So for example, giving  Iran strawberries and cream is never going to persuade them to give up their nukes. In some cases, you simply have to blow up the entire pond. 

  • Ron19


    The Dale Carnegie techniques are tools, and can be used for several purposes.

    For instance, you can use them to turn lose-win to win-lose.  You can also use them to create win-win.  Or neutral-whatever.

    As has been demonstrated this past week, you don’t always control the other person, but you can learn to do better at controlling yourself. 

    Or not.

  • robyn26

    “How to win friends and influence people” is one of my favorite books too.  I have another one that is my favorite.  It is called, “Being You: How To Live Authentically” by author Gerard M. Doyle.  This is a non-fiction self help book to show readers how to be confident and live life without fear or anxiety.  I picked it up because lately things have been crazy and out of control in my life.  This is a book I will be reading over and over again.  <a href=””></a&gt;