Opinion Philosophy Productivity

How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

How Not to Win Friends and Influence People
How Not to Win Friends and Influence People


Character to Personality

“We are social creatures” or something like that. But what happens when we care too much about what people think?

In her book Quiet, Susan Cain describes how the US moved from being a character culture to a personality culture. Qualities such as honor, hard work, and loyalty were common ideals, but eventually were replaced by a new cultural mindset that became obsessed with flash, buzz, and charisma. The personality culture pushes you to build a likable persona, not an authentic character. But in a world of knockoffs and me-too products, authenticity is at a premium.

It’s simple economics: supply and demand. When an entire culture lived according to rigid character building ideals, the premium was on forming a persona that could entertain others and stand out. The person who was able to act amicably by smiling more often and feigning enthusiasm was more likely to get ahead. Hence the popularity of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Carnegie wasn’t exactly giving people revolutionary advice, he was just telling them to be nice to other people – sometimes at the expense of being truthful. Since few people were willing to go out of their way to treat others a little more respectfully or smile more often – whenever someone did, they got rewarded.

Trust is at a Premium

Things are different now. There’s an oversupply of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” disciples. They are the majority. What’s lacking is authenticity, honesty, and humanity. With all the tools we have at our disposal, you can automate being nice. You can automate enthusiasm. But authenticity can’t be automated. Trust can’t be replicated.

In the Icarus Deception, Godin makes the case that If you can be authentic today, you will have the attention of many loyal customers. What we crave the most is human connection through art, not low-cost, copycat solutions. We have mastered efficiency, and we have more options than we could possibly need.  But what we choose to give our attention to – that’s valuable.

How do you stand out in a world of “How to Win Friends and Influence People?”

Stop trying to win friends and influence people. Cut down your agreeableness a notch or two. Tell people how you feel, not how you think you should feel. Don’t write things a certain way because it’s trendy to write them that way. Don’t dive into fads like making infographics because you read about how shareable they are, or follow quick tips that are going to give you the edge you need. Stop looking for that killer online course that’s going to growth hack your business to the moon. Focus on building something valuable instead. There is no shortcut, or trick, or hack.

“There are only two ways of doing something, the easy way and the right way”. – Walter White

I’ve read articles by people who will encourage you to put out an e-book in less than a week, like it’s a good thing. The author of $100 startup – a book I reviewed and liked – came up with a new book called “Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days”. Anything you can do in 27 days isn’t good enough. If you are going to write a book, would you rather write a Perennial Seller or a book people will forget about tomorrow? Do you want to pull the wool over your audience’s eyes, or do you want to build something that will add value to people’s lives for years to come? 

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