Category: Self Help

Book Review – How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Talking and building a connection with other people has been – and still is – a problem for me growing up; being shy and lacking self-confidence did not help. As such, conversation and body language self-help books were my favorite reads during my college and post-college years. I wrote a post on learning to be a better conservationist here. If anything, those books help increase your conversational arsenal.

My latest book, and a oldie, is How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, originally released in 1936. I only read the first half of the book, the the last half is about managing people, which is not something I am interested in at the moment.

The book is enjoyable as there are tons of interesting stories and quotes that flush out each chapter. Dale Carnegie uses real world examples – both first and second hand – that make the stories feel more relatable. In addition, each chapter ends with a simple one sentence principle that summarizes the chapter.

Even if many of the principles in the book seems like “common” sense, you might be surprise what you are doing, or not doing, once Dale Carnegie brings attention to them. With that, let’s look at some of the principles that matters the most to me.

1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

I think there’s a reason this is the very first principle. Criticizing or condemning people will only cause them to double down and go on the defensive, not win you any new friends. Trying to understand the other person is more effective, according to the book.

2. Give sincere appreciation

There is a difference between appreciation and flattery. Flattery is just telling the other person what they want to hear, which I am guilty of. Because flattery is easy, I have to actively catch myself due to old habits.

3. Become genuinely interested in other people

This principle not only helps you make friends, but is great for business. Find a common topic or subject that you have interest, try not to fake your interest.

4. Smile

This simple sentence from the book pretty much says it all, “It costs nothing, but creates much.” Plus, this is a great first impression.

5. A person’s name is the sweetest sound to that person

The book emphasizes remembering names of people you meet to show that you care – and paying attention – when you meet them again. And, use their names often as a person’s name is one of the few things that identify each person.

6. Be a good listener by encouraging others to talk about themselves

I am sure you probably heard this before if you are an aspiring conversationalist, yet a principle I wished I knew when a long time ago. Instead of stressing out on finding something interesting to say, ask the person questions about themselves or accomplishments.

I really cannot do this book justice. I highly recommend that you pick up How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie for yourself. You can read the first two chapters like me if you just want tips on communication. Of course, you fully benefit from the book if you’re into business and management; but business or not, the later principles can benefit anyone as they focus on cooperation with people you do not necessary want to be best buds with.

There are many editions but any edition is fine. Most of the editions are revised with modern stories and examples throughout the decades. My edition, the Special Anniversary Edition, has an insert about Stevie Wonder, for example.

How I Lost And Maintained My Weight

One of the my most asked question is: how did I lose my weight? Sadly, there is really no secret; the secret is simply diet and exercise. I went from 170 to 180 lbs, throughout high school and college, to 150 to 155 lbs for the last six years. I’m 5’9” by the way.

The main focus is to eliminate refined sugars and exercising everyday. Eating healthy is important but not necessary eating the leanest cut of meats.

I must warn that my method is long term, requiring lots of patience. In fact, you might not see any results for months but the foundation is building up. Took three years before I slimmed down to my desired level of fitness. This is a mindset, a willpower, type of weight loss program.

Baby Steps
Firstly, I scaled back the soda intake. One or two per day. Slowly reducing the soda intake over a year. Same for sport drinks and candy bars. This can be a difficult task especially when your brain is so wired to carve the sugary beverages.

Start jogging around my neighborhood, there no need for expensive gym memberships. Started with an one mile and walked back every day. Threw in some push-up and negative pull-ups in the backyard. Chin-up and pull-pulls are great workout and indicator of overall fitness, in my opinion. You can use the local park’s monkey bars if you don’t have a pull-up bar at home.

Setbacks and Burnout
Be careful with your enthusiasm at the beginning. Over exercising or restricting your diet will only cause you to burn out or binge. The idea is to adopt the new lifestyle slowly so it becomes a part of you.

I have family members that tried Atkins Diet; only to regain the weight and more once they got tired of the diet. Also, you have to allow yourself to cheat once in awhile if you’re craving it, or else you will binge.

On the workout side, another tried the Insanity Workout with great results. Unfortunately, he never really built a foundation for a lifestyle change; he would end up burning out and regaining the weight after two months. To be fair to Insanity, waking up at 4 am to workout before work – he was self conscious – was not sustainable.

I have succumb to burnout. When I first started, I used to hit the gym everyday for 3 hours. In addition, I would drive across town to meet up with cousins. Frankly, this got old and tiresome. I soon started to make excuses not to go. It’s cold. It’s far. Too lazy to fill the gas tank.

Unless you have a background with exercise or diet restriction, I highly suggest going it easy and make continual changes as you go. From what I observed over the years, taking small steps then slowly ramping up is the best way to get use to change and adopt.

The Alternative Daily

Cutting Off Refined Sugar
After a year or so, I started to cut out soda completely. By this time, I really do not miss it. I cut off sugary sport drinks when exercising as studies show that they do not improve your performance any better than water, unless you’re a professional athlete.

I went another step further and restricted refined sugar in general. Currently, refined sugar is low in my diet. Water, tea, and coffee is all I really drink; no sugar or sweetener added. Honey is a good substitute, if I need to sweeten things. I still eat ice cream, pies, cookies, and other desserts sparely. Occasionally, indulge in a carving to avoid excessive binge eating – I enjoy a few donuts with black coffee once in awhile.

Diet
The initial meal plan was four small meals; breakfast, two “lunches”, and dinner. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables were the staple. I prefer the full flavor of fatty meats, including skins, as I find lean cuts too plain and boring. Meats consist of about 25% of the plate. The other 75% are vegetables and some form of carbohydrates – like rice and potatoes.

In addition, I got use to eating at home. I make foods that are easy to prepare. Youtube can help if you don’t know where to start. For example, marinaded chicken thighs in a ziplock bag is a easy source of protein for days.

Breakfast was usually oatmeal – I used steel cut oats – with fruits and nuts to provide sweetness and texture. Lunches were usually natural peanut butter and honey/banana/avocado/nuts. I was back in college at this time so sandwiches were portable and cheap. Dinner is the biggest meal. For dessert, I ate fruits on most days. I do not eat chips and other processed snacks often; snacks were fruits and nuts.

These are my usually meals. You should always eat what you like every other day. Even, fried chicken can be a nice treat once a week. The main thing is that you’re eating relatively healthy with moderation most of the week. Boredom is a huge concern so change things up. Changing the fruit with my oatmeal daily makes a lot of difference. Finding something healthy and cheap that you can eat everyday will be a personal challenge, luckily you have time.

Metabolic Cooking

Exercise
My initial workout routine was an one mile jog and one mile walk back home everyday. Yes, home. I stopped going to the gym. I did this because I wanted to create a mindset where exercise can be anywhere, not just the gym. Plus, there no more excuses not to exercise.

For three days a week, I did weight training at home using dumbbells, calisthenics, power bar, workout ball, and high bars in the backyard for chin-ups and pull-ups. You can read about my early workout routine in one of my earlier post. Don’t be afraid to try out moves and see what works for you.

The most important aspect is not skipping any days. Exercise a bit earlier or later to work around events of the day.

Ramp Up Exercise
After few months, you will see some results and performance. That one mile that you struggled with at the beginning will seem like a walk. At this time, you might want to increase the jog to two miles, no more walking back.

By this time, I settled into routine of five to six moves that target major muscle groups: biceps, abdominal, chest, leg, back, and triceps. Pull-ups and chin-ups are still the core of my workout. When I do go to the gym, I would do a mile on the treadmill before hitting the weights.

Eventually, I only jogged four days and weight trained the other three days in the week, since my weight training was getting more intense.

Final Words
I know the idea of working out everyday seems like a hassle but after years of doing it, you sort of get use to the idea. In fact, I feel strange if I don’t workout, even anxious. I even workout when I’m traveling or on vacation.

Again, this method requires a lot of patience and willpower. I can say that I kept my weight off for about six years now. Everyone is different, even you decide this is not for you, I hope that this gives you ideas to formulate a program that fits you as I was able to.

Learning to be a Better Conversationalist

Shyness & Social Anxiety Guy

A good conversationalist is a very important skill in every aspect. Being an introvert person, I have always been fascinated with talking to people. More specifically, what to say to people. During my high school and early college years, I was painfully shy and rarely say anything to anyone, mainly because I would never know what to say to people.

After college, I did pick up a few books on conversations. I have to say they really help, even if it’s all mental. However, I find myself forgetting most of the lessons from these books and sticking to only one trick: ask questions. Great for the initial few minutes, the problem is that I have fallen into the trap of machine gun questioning, which always makes people feel awkward. So I decided to learn new, and relearn old, conversation skills to become an interesting conversationalists.

I figure that I’ll share what I learn during this process of self improvement. Generally, a good conversationalist does not dominate the conversation but asks questions, listens, and responds to the speaker.

Asking questions:
This is the obvious one. However, asking questions one after another in succession can make the other person feel awkward, as from my experience.

Start with simple, non-threatening questions about the person to start the conversation going like “How they know the host/mutual friend?” or “Do they live around your here?” If you know the person’s interest, you can ask about their interest like “How your fantasy league doing?” or “How’s your sewing coming along?” As you get to know the person better, you can move to more interesting questions about themselves like “What is one or two things they would like to accomplish if work and money was not a factor?”

Of course, add some of your insights and opinions in between questions to avoid sounding like a questioning machine, like me. Be sure to ask them what they think when you’re sharing your thoughts or transiting the conversation to another topic.

Ask some follow up questions to gain a better insight and clarification on what the person is saying and the person’s life. These questions help the person know that you’re interested in what they’re saying and the happenings in their life. Follow up questions can be simple as, “How did you feel when that happened?” or “What did you do next?”

Listening:
Generally, people like good listeners because they make the speaker feel interesting and validated about themselves. Of course, being a good listener is not just being an ear for someone while looking bored.

Show interest by asking follow up questions like “What you mean?” or “How do you feel about that?”

Provide some feedback to the speaker. I fall to this myself at times. In my attempt to concentrate on what’s being said, I develop a blank face. The other person will notice and see it as you are not interested on what’s being said. I find nodding and some facial expressions can go a long way. Most importantly, be genuinely interested in the person. Move on to someone else if you are not interested to save both parties time and energy.

As such, I feel providing feedback is a critical skill that separates the good listeners from the average listeners. I notice that when I run out of steam in providing feedback to the speaker, the conversation usually ends, awkwardly at times. Some of my more animated and energetic friends can keep the speaker energized and the conversation going. Of course, this takes practice and knowing when to end the conversation and re-engage them again when you, yourself, is re-energized.

Keeping with current topics:
Keeping on top of current events in entertainment, sports, and politics can be very useful when conversing with someone. Entertainment and sports are obvious good choices to keep updated in as they are easy and not as controversial as politics.

I usually scan the news before bed on my phone on sites like Google News. I also follow a few websites that cover certain topics that interest me like video game.

Watching movies, reading popular books, and following a few sport stories will help your arsenal of conversation skills. Who does not want to discuss the latest episode of Games of Thrones? Of course, you don’t have to watch every movie or read every book, just a few so you can add to the conversation when people ask about your interests.

With politics, you can try to add some humor but being careful to not offend people around you. Of course, you do not have to agree with person, make sure your points with evidence, conviction, and a dash of humor if possible.

Being humorous:
Speaking of humor, witty comments can break ices and uplift the conversations. Not an easy skill to develop because good witty comments are spontaneous, clever, and unexpected. If you happen to know a witty person, try to observe the person and pick up a few tricks. Everyone appreciates a person that can make them laugh. I definitely need work on this, myself.

Having a few stories in your pocket can be helpful. Funny personal stories relating to unusual experiences and misfortunes are good. Self-deprecating stories can be funny as well. You should practice these stories but do not force them into conversations. You will learn to fine tune and time the delivery of the jokes over time.

Jokes and witty remarks that you borrowed should not be used without asking the other person. In addition, you should not finish or give away someone else’s punch line.
Most importantly, be yourself and enjoy the interaction. Being natural and relax with a positive attitude will attract more people around you. Yes, talking to a stranger can be scary but who knows, some of those interactions can be one of your life long friend, companion, or a future job opportunity.

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