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.