I first read How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1996. I did all the stuff it said, made a lot of friends, got along better with people, etc. etc. But after a while I began to get tired. It was taking too much energy to be positive all the time. I got tired of remembering names. I couldn’t always think of sincere compliments. I decided that maybe this Carnegie stuff wasn’t for me.
Later I learned that several people whom I admire recommend the Carnegie course. (If you read the latest Warren Buffet bio, he actually performed an empirical evaluation of the techniques, complete with statistical analysis of his results.) I decided to give it another chance. But this time I’d keep in mind something I learned from Stephen Covey: the difference in techniques and principles.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey points out that much of the modern self help literature focuses on techniques. Say this, write that, go there, watch those, dress this way, etc. The problem is that techniques can only help so much. Real permament change must be grounded in principles.
My problem before was that I was treating the Carnegie material as techniques instead of principles. I was trying to do those things instead of being the kind of person for whom those things come naturally. As my enthusiasm waned, I burned out.
The Carnegie course is like anything else – what you get out depends on what you put in. If you attend and then forget about it, it won’t help you. If you attend, study the material, commit to it, and work on it, who knows where you can go. This time I’m determined to practice this until it sticks. Not until I’m good at it, or it’s easy, or fun, or I’m tired of it. I’m working at it until it becomes my nature.