How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie


Now, this is a real classic. A masterpiece written in 1936 that is as valuable today as it was then. A timeless and priceless read. I would like to congratulate Mr. Carnegie posthumously for leaving us such a beautiful gift and legacy.

The book is very simple, and it´s about how to win friends and influence people, of course. And that´s exactly what it´s about, and nothing else. It´s written in a clear and very objective way. The book is divided in many small chapters to better organize the different approaches and methods to influence people. The author also fills the book with examples that make each lesson even simpler and more practical. Personally, I read one chapter a week, in order to process and remember each lesson before moving to the next one. I find this a better way to remember the techniques in the future.

I met many people, myself included, who might be hesitant or even afraid to read Carnegie´s book. That is understandable, since the title automatically makes you imagine some evil form of manipulating people to fulfill all your personal goals or force them to take action about something under some sort of duress. If that was the case, it could be an interesting book, but it´s not, which thus makes it an incredible one. It´s a sincere and honest book, trying to illustrate the best practices to help you achieve your objectives without having to confront people head to head. Whether you like or not, the world is made of people, and one way or another, you have to engage them to accomplish any objective, be it big or small.

Let´s say, hypothetically, a sales rep needs to sell a car to a potential client, and first thing the client says is “I don´t like the color, and I don´t like engine and I don´t like the price”. A regular rep would automatically get defensive and frustrated, or simply tell him that the sale was not going to happen and he should look for a different car.

On the other hand, analyzing the situation through Carnegie´s lens, there are several techniques the rep can use to make the sale. First, understand each issue through the customer’s perspective: why does he not like the color? Nor the engine? Nor the price? It´s possible the car is for her daughter and you can offer him a complete different product, maybe pink, very slow and at the same price, that he will love. Second, criticize yourself before criticizing others. The rep should tell him he also made the wrong decision last time he bought a car, showing he´s talking from experience and prone to error. Third, make the client feel important and superior. Let him talk about himself, ask about his life, remember his name, show real interest – everybody is vain and that can be exploited. Last but not least, don´t argue in a straightforward way. Don´t say “No, you are wrong”, use different words in different situations. Those are just few examples. Moreover, if the client doesn´t end up buying the car, at least he will surely give the sales rep another shot next time.

The one thing you really gotta be careful is not to force or try to hard to put the techniques in practice. Otherwise, they will seem fake and work against you, instead of for you. In order to have good results, be honest, real and truthful. The aim is not to manipulate your opposite, but to alter the status quo with a partner.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a must read for everybody, from a mother to a CEO. Who wouldn´t like to have smoother relations, better sales, more profitable deals and fewer headaches?

Nevertheless, remember, it´s not because you read the book that every time you talk to someone you´ll get what you want. These are lessons that require practice and improvement during your whole life span. Wish you luck and success.

Mr. George

Warrior by Ariel Sharon      vs      Arik by David Landau

ariel sharon

Many people claim Ariel Sharon´s life is the State of Israel´s life. He was a moshavnick, then a soldier, then an officer, then a general, then Defense Minister, then Prime Minister, then very unfortunately, and to the detriment of not only the State of Israel but all Jews around the world, he died in 2014. He was an extremely controversial figure, a very strong and determined man, a great battlefield general and a skillful politician.

Sharon had a deep sense of patriotism and high moral standards. He used to fight, both literally and figuratively, to achieve what he believed was best for the country and the Jews. It´s easy to acknowledge those traits throughout his whole history, his decisions were always clear-cut and strong as rock, and he would go miles to achieve the end result in mind. It´s important to understand all the confidence and tenacity came from his guts, his beliefs of right and wrong and the will to improve the State and protect its citizens. This self-assurance and determination sometimes collided head to head with other loud opinions, causing all the controversies we hear until today. Sharon´s actions and incredible feats during his lifetime were the illustration of those beliefs, both in the battlefield and in the political spectrum. That´s why Sharon was called the Bulldozer by some, but Hero by all.

There are several biographies written about him. I have read two of them so far: Warrior written by Ariel Sharon himself, and Arik written by the journalist David Landau, released the same year Sharon died.  If you sympathized with Ariel Sharon you will prefer Warrior, if not, Arik.

Warrior, obviously, is Ariel Sharon´s version of his life events. The book is very poignant at times; you can feel Ariel´s emotions when he is talking about events such as his fighting experience in the Independence War, his love for the land, his anger towards the IDF leadership during the Yom Kippur War, or the sadness and emptiness he felt when his son died.

In my opinion Sharon really was a Hero; one of the great, if not the greatest, general in the history of the State of Israel, and Warrior portrays it so more than Arik. I know you will think it´s not fair, since the book was written by Sharon himself, how could it be otherwise? I cannot say Sharon is humble since he does like to display his battle skills in contrast to other generals, but it´s easy to observe he is always more concerned about the welfare of the State and the Jews.

When reading Warrior, you must know you are reading Sharon´s biased views on the events, but still, it´s one the best biographies I have read so far.  The book is very strong, and it describes Arik´s life in synergy with the History of Israel. At the same time, is filled with Sharon´s opinions, which aren´t light at all, and many anecdotes. Personally, I was always curious about his relationships with other personalities, like Moshe Dayan or Menachem Begin. The only thing I was not happy about, is that the book ends in the mid 1980´s and you don´t get any of the stories after that.

Arik by Landau looks more like a biography we are used to reading. It´s denser and it tries to fill in the blanks with many more details. Unlike Warrior, it is more complete, showing the different points of view of the events, being very critical of the man and his actions on several issues. Arik does go through all of Sharon´s life up to his stroke and death in 2014, but at the same time, it doesn´t have the same feeling or effect on you.

Although I am a huge fan and admirer of Ariel Sharon, I can´t say Landau is wrong to portray all the doubts and controversies that are left open in Sharon´s life journey. Those controversies did happen and they had huge consequences for the State of Israel. If you really want to know the events that shaped Ariel Sharon´s life, you have to know both sides of the story, such as the Sabra and Shatila massacre, his movement to dislocate the Sinai settlers, the construction of a security wall to separate West Bank from Israel or the war in Gaza. Landau´s book will give you that.

  

If you are looking for facts and pure history choose Landau´s. If you want a first person perspective, with all that it entails, choose Warrior. You should not read one without the other. They complement each other. This is my politically correct suggestion.

As for my politically incorrect suggestion, choose Warrior for sure. Sharon deserves much more than facts. He was a force to be recognised and admired. He was a general of the highest caliber. Thus, if you’re not feeling it, you’re simply not getting the full picture. A pity that would be.

As a side note and last thought, I keep wondering how else Sharon could´ve shaped Israel´s history was he still alive today.

Mr. George

About Dr. Watson

 

I once read a very interesting piece about Dr. Watson that really caught my attention and opened my eyes in many ways, so I decided to write my own. Here it goes.

Everybody knows Dr. Watson as Sherlock Holmes ‘sidekick or assistant, always positioned as a secondary or minor character in the stories. Everything is about Sherlock Holmes: how smart he is, how observant, always knowing what to do or what to say, the ex-boxer anti violence genius, etc…. The books are named after him. The movies are named after him (just as a parenthesis, instead of watching the new action genre version of Sherlock in the movies, I would recommend watching Young Sherlock Holmes by Steven Spielberg made in 1986). Dr. Watson, however, is much more than just a sidekick.

By observing Dr. Watson´s life journey, it´s easy to infer he is not a mere person, but a very accomplished one. Dr. Watson was born in the 1800´s in England and served in the British army. Guess why is he called Dr. Watson and not Mr. Watson? Yes, very clever of you to guess so quickly, for he was a doctor in the Army. He was stationed in India for a while where he took a bullet in battle, got the fever and was eventually sent back to London. That´s when he met Sherlock and became his roommate.

Let’s now examine the real importance and raison d’être of Dr. Watson. First, Dr. Watson is the narrator of all the stories. Hence, I affirm, you would not know Sherlock´s adventures without his narrator. And what a wonderful narrator he is, always so humble that he never glorifies his own deeds, but only those of the great detective Sherlock Holmes. His use of language is great, giving you enough details to engage the reader but not to bore him. Above all, always able to tell the most complicated cases in a simple and understandable narrative.

Second, Dr. Watson is not only the narrator, but also Sherlock’s partner in almost every adventure. I say this to emphasize how Dr. Watson was always there to help Sherlock whenever he was in need, as a most loyal friend and ally. It´s no easy task to be able to accompany Sherlock Holmes; you have to be brave and courageous to face the enemies, cold-blooded to watch all the dead bodies, patient to put up with all of Sherlock´s eccentricities and most of all, smart enough to follow the detective´s thoughts. Only a very surefooted man could accomplish such tasks successfully.

Third, Dr. Watson experiences as a doctor/surgeon and soldier came in handy many times to the know-it-all detective. Dr. Watson is extremely helpful analyzing dead bodies in order to blossom an investigation. Moreover, in a couple of stories, he had to put his medicinal knowledge in practice to help solve a case or aid someone in help. Also, his soldier experience was very useful to Sherlock more than once when he needed someone who could handle a gun confidently.

Fourth and last, Dr. Watson is the balance of Sherlock´s life. Dr. Watson is everything that Sherlock is not, thus complementing his faults, which can be enormous. In contrast to Sherlock, Dr. Watson can be sentimental, emotional and have a greater degree of empathy. He loves women, goes after them and was even engaged to Mary Morstan. He’s someone who prefers to err in the side of caution and is capable of processing information with a human mind while Sherlock´s is all machinery.

I thus propose a salute to the great Dr. Watson, the most underestimated man in the annals of history.

Mr. George

About John le Carré

John le Carré is the pseudonym of David Cornwell, a British spy novel author. A favorite of mine in fact. Le Carré really was a spy, although I´m not sure where and when he worked, he did work for Britain´s secret service, which gives a reality notch to his novels. Many of his books became movies afterwards, such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (great), The Constant Gardner (sucks), A Most Wanted Man (cool but not enough), among some others.

John le Carré´s novels are very different from the usual action filled spy story we are used to. The novels are slow-paced, with almost no action at all in their majority. Well, his new books are more action filled, but are also the worst ones, so please disregard them. All of them also have a heavy and intricate writing style. Some excerpts reminded me of classic American literature I used to read in school. I know it sounds boring and excruciating, but it´s just not. Quite the opposite actually, they are smart, politically infused, controversial and very intriguing to read.

Le Carré is able to deliver a very original espionage story, mixed with a real background that´s based in history and current world events, especially those that happen during the Cold War. I say this because, let´s face it, James Bond is not real, his enemies are not real and the explosions are very not real. Le Carré´s novels usually revolve around someone´s death, interpolated with a political issue, being solved or investigated by a British spy with a complex and deep personality.

smiley playing chessAnd of all his spies with complex and deep personalities, my favorite is George Smiley. Smiley works for the British intelligence service at the top echelons and knows his way around. He is very quiet, and extremely smart. When I say Smiley´s smart, I mean he can see the world in front of him evolving like a chess game, and he is a master player that can untangle any stratagem with its due patience. He is patriotic, sharp, loyal, unsociable, and in my view, not athletic at all. Smiley is not the spy you´re used to seeing in the movies, but rather one you come to admire and respect once you get to know him. Like a good old scotch, he´s an acquired taste.

Of course my favorite novels are the ones which I get to see Smiley working. I would most recommend the Karla trilogy, a series of three books on which Smiley is “playing chess” with his Russian archrival Karla during the Cold War.

Mr. George

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond   

paddington

Like a lot of children, I also read Paddington when I was a little kid. I remember my mother used to encourage me to read Paddington, since I was able to read by myself at that time already. After watching the new movie Paddington, released on Netflix last month, I decided to read the book again. The movie was a delight to watch, and it made me curious to remember if the book was such a treat also.

And indeed a treat it was, even better than the movie.

For those who were not that fortunate to have read Paddington, he is a little bear that left his home in Darkest Peru and went to find a new life in London. The Brown family accidentally found him in Paddington station, named him Paddington as you can imagine, and welcomed him into their home. From then on you read about Paddington´s adventures in the sea, in the market, learning to paint, etc…

It´s a pleasure to read Paddington´s adventures mainly because of his character. He is a very polite bear, which lifts his hat every time someone greets him. He is very naïve, in a cute and childish way. If you make a joke he will always get it literally and even get scared if it’s a bad one. He is funny in his own way, always getting himself involuntarily in the worst and most comic situations. Besides those traits, he is also smart; he learns quickly the way of humans and is always looking to experience new adventures.

A Bear Called Paddington is a very witty book. Just as the movie, it is delightful. A lift spirit kind of read, that takes you back to the best times of your childhood, when you were unafraid and open to everything and everyone the world put in your way.

Every child as well as adults must read Paddington, for it´s joyful, entertaining and reminds you there are a bunch of lessons to learn from a child´s mind (a little bear in this case). To go a bit deeper on the analysis, maybe even pushing it a little, it humbles you to acknowledge a good heart, and how adventure and happiness are in the simple events of life.

But don´t read it for the deep stuff, that´s just me, read it because it´s a most refreshing and enjoyable experience.

Mr.  George

Built to Last by Jim Collins

First and foremost, you gotta know who Jim Collins is before we talk about any of his works. Jim Collins is considered today one the best business gurus and consultants in the world. It´s hard to explain what a guru or a consultant really does, because they can be very versatile differing on what they’re working on, but Jim fundamentally studies growth and the path to success of companies worldwide. Within that field, he advises several entrepreneurs and CEOs. George Paulo Lemann, for instance, is a real admirer of the guy.

Built to Last was first published in 1994 (his books are not tied to a specific era; you could call them classics), and it was written with the purpose of answering the following question: What makes a company endure hardships and changes, and thus last a really long time?

What makes Jim Collins what he is today is the simplicity and objectivity in the way he gives you the answers to the main question/thesis in hand (in this case how does a company lasts a long time?). He is able to find the real source, the true cause, for such complex issues. In a way that it all becomes black and white in a grey world. His answers are almost too simple to believe, making so much sense that it´s hard to argue back. Of course, like any other sport, to put it in practice successfully is the fortune of very few lucky ones.

Jim, similar to most of his books, likes to put forth his analysis with the use of examples and pair companies (good company A versus bad company B). In Built to Last, we see him using as example 3M, Procter and Gamble, Disney, among other giants.

Let´s go through a few of my favorite points in the book, for illustration purposes:

1.       BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) – If you want to be successful for a long time, you gotta set some really hard, almost impossible, goals to achieve. Once you achieve them, you create a new set, even hairier and more audacious . That´s how Wal-Mart was able to grow from a grocery store in Arkansas to a $ 250 billion revenue mammoth.

2.       Clock building not Time telling – It means a CEO/founder is supposed to focus on building the company for the long-term, not trying to achieve immediate short-term success, the sort that creates publicity and then dies down. A company and it´s CEO must have the purpose of creating a platform for success, to be successful repeatedly and sometimes not, instead of narrowing themselves in one supposedly great product or idea. 

3.       The Tyranny of the “Or” – People are always choosing. Choosing between cost and quality, or work and family, or short-term success and long-term success, or big stiff company and small flexible company, and it goes on… That is just wrong. No choosing should be done. Never. You gotta find a way to intertwine both options, all the time. That’s key to last a long time and keep the boat floating.

Every Jim Collins´ book is a great one, even though one may appeal to you more than the other. Built to Last really appealed to me.

Mr. George

About Miss Charlotte

Miss Charlotte is the one person who made possible the creation of Books n’About and without her I, Mr. George, would be an nonexistent being.

Thus, for the sake of our literary passion, let´s imagine Miss Charlotte as a fictional character in a truly amazing epic novel. I will hence describe her bio, always keeping her true nature alive.

Miss Charlotte is highborn, meaning she grew up in a royal court. A very fancy and beautiful court, filled with ladies and gentlemen walking around to fulfill their royal duties. Miss Charlotte, however, easily distinguished herself among all other women, for she was taller, smarter, and prettier. For some time people referred to her as The Duchess Charlotte, but she decided Miss Charlotte was more appropriate, not to attract too much attention.

Miss Charlotte is always well dressed and with a posture that never fails her. Besides the fact that she is a lady of the court, she is also real true lady from within. In that classy attitude, she walks around with beautiful long dark dresses, that whenever you encounter her in the halls, you feel a bit astonished. Even in the casual days Miss Charlotte likes her leather boots and matching jacket. But don´t be mistaken, she is modest and discreet to a fault.

Now we get to the very interesting stuff about Miss Charlotte, her personality, which is very hard to describe because it´s a very intricate one. Her face reveals her fierceness; strong nose, dark hair and perfect smile. On the other side, her hands and gestures show gentleness and kindness. You really get confused with her sometimes. She always knows what´s good from bad, and right from wrong. And although she is not brusque in her assertions, she always ends up trailing the correct path. Miss Charlotte´s patience is also very admirable. She can endure hardships for months on, with a proud quietness, patiently waiting, all in order for the right moment to show her strengths. I could say she would be a very talented poker player. Miss Charlotte´s heart feels pure and gentle to whoever engages her. But don´t confuse the pureness with weakness, she is smart as a fox and can manipulate anyone to help her accomplish her objectives. A remarkable lady indeed. The Duchess Charlotte.

Miss Charlotte would be a perfect date for Batman, or even Sherlock Holmes (the original version, not the Hollywood one). She can easily handle a strong and determined man with such perfect sprezzatura, that he would never notice what hit him. Fortunately, she´s mine with all her glory.

Mr. George

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson   vs.   Becoming Steve Jobs by Rick Tetseli

To put it simple, any book about Steve Jobs will be interesting. The guy was a visionary, amazing leader, shrewd businessman, rebel and corporate at the same time, and it goes on. So both books have a great topic to start with.Tetseli´s book came out just last month, and it was supposed to make a big fuss as the true side of Steve Jobs. It didn´t happen, and I´ll tell you why. Tetseli tried really hard to portray Steve as better person than Isaacson did, a guy who became more mature with time. However, it just seemed as a “correction” from the previous version. But it didn’t look real. There aren´t enough primary sources and interviews to back this nice guy thesis. Tetseli cites people like Jon Ive and Lasseter, and of course they love Jobs, they made their life out of Job´s visions, but he forgets to quote his family, or Woz, or Markkula. You´re pretty much just seeing one side of Jobs, and that´s the pretty one.

Just to be clear, I love Jobs, and our world is better because of him, but Tetseli’ story just didn’t fly. Not too grappling either. Its a more limited book.

Isaacson, on the other hand, has a love and hate relation with Jobs’ biography. He puts it all there: the good, and the bad, the ugly and the pretty, the failures and the victories. It´s better researched, with much more content. You get a much better feel of Jobs, his accomplishments and the way he accomplished all he did by reading this version. You get to know more about him as a person by the way he opens up the relationships with his family, co-workers, ex-coworkers and shareholders of Apple. This version looks more real and a lot more interesting.

Since I didn´t know Jobs personally, I can´t tell you for sure which version is closer to reality. What I do know, is that Isaacson´s biography is much more entertaining and has a lot more punch to it.

Go for Isaacson´s, no doubt about it.

Mr. George

Shogun by James Clavell

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I just read a very famous book. Some of you may know it, especially the
older generations. The book is called Shogun by James Clavell. He wrote a series of novels relating to oriental culture, focusing on Japan. James Clavell died in 1994, but his novels became classics and were adapted to TV shows and movies later on.

Shogun is about John Blackthorn, a ship’s pilot from England who end up the Japan in the 1500’s. Throughout the story he becomes one the main advisors to the future Shogun of Japan, the ruler/dictator. The book has action, samurai culture, a fair amount of political strategy, and a love story on the side (not too much so it doesn’t spoil the whole novel).

I could surely assume the movie The Last Samurai is based on this novel. The plots are very similar.

If you enjoy japanese culture, all that talk about discipline, honor, swords, samurai, etc… then you’re gonna love the book. Very easy read. Worth a while. The only contra is the length of it, close to 1500 pages.

I liked it and I am eager to read his other famous one, The Noble House.

Mr. George