Life lessons from Dale Carnegie: 1) Criticism is futile

I’m currently re-reading Dale Carnegie‘s classic on human relations, How to Win Friends and Influence People. These lessons never get old.

Almost every great leader — whether in business, nonprofit, or government — knows about Carnegie and has mastered the skills he outlines. Warren Buffet said Dale Carnegie changed his life. Buffet doesn’t have his college diploma or his Master’s degree from Columbia University pinned up on his wall in his office. The diploma he has pinned up is the one he received when he graduated from Dale Carnegie’s training program.

The first principle is Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. Here’s a great piece that the book gives to drive this point home. The piece is called “Father Forgets” by W. Livingston Larned (this is the condensed version from Reader’s Digest).

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive-and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding-this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy-a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Carnegie sums up the moral of “Father Forgets”:

Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance, and kindness. “To know all is to forgive all.”

Great life lesson.

My recent article: “Vancouver+Acumen celebrates social entrepreneurship at DIGNITY 2013”

Sam Goldman speaking pic copy

Sam Goldman, founding CEO of d.light and Ashoka Fellow, speaks about his social enterprise’s work in India and Sub-Saharan Africa at DIGNITY 2013 last night.

Here’s a link to my piece in The Vancouver Observer. As I said in my previous blog post, last night I covered DIGNITY 2013 for the Observer. DIGNITY was hosted by Vancouver+Acumen with the aim of raising money for the impact investing initiatives carried out by Acumen. If you don’t already know about Acumen’s work investing in social enterprises, you should start learning, because impact investing and social enterprises are the future of capitalism. And this future is coming soon to a theatre near you.

Here are some excerpts:

[T]he question “What do you do?” doesn’t make sense to a social entrepreneur. This is because it’s not what they do.  It’s who they are.  They are doers.

…to [social entrepreneurs], this question is personal. It’s probing into their very nature and fundamental identity. To them, I’m not simply asking, “What do you do?” I’m essentially asking, “Who are you?”

And another one:

There were countless stories of action, doing, and inspiration last night at DIGNITY 2013. But the main message was this: the title of social entrepreneur is not exclusive to an elite few. You do not need a certificate or an advanced degree or a million dollar trust fund. You do need to be different. You need to possess the dogged perseverence to find your passion or cause, the audacity to do it, and the ability to tell your story.

To slightly alter a quote from renowned storyteller George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Social entrepreneurs dream things that never were, and ask why not.” The key is to know when to stop dreaming and start doing. As DIGNITY 2013 showed me, there’s no better time than today.

If you like the article I encourage you to share it via Facebook, Twitter, your blogs, etc…

I hope to interview some Vancouver-based social entrepreneurs that are making a difference in this city, in Canada, and abroad in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!

Live tweeting tonight Vancouver + Acumen event

Tonight I’ll be covering DIGNITY Vancouver (Celebrating the Spirit of Entrepreneurship) for The Vancouver Observer.  The event is put on by Vancouver+Acumen, a volunteer-run chapter that raises money to support the outstanding work of the impact investment organization, Acumen Fund.  I hope you follow me on twitter at @kurtislockhart for live tweets during the event (under #DIGNITY2013).

I’ll write a post about the event soon.

Links I liked…

1. Top 5 Regrets of the Dying from justinzoradi.com

2. Stereotyping in Europe from Marginal Revolution

3. Letter to a Young Social Entrepreneur: the poor are not the raw material for your salvation from Pioneer Post

4. 99 Life Hacks to Make Your Life Easier (the most brilliant household tips I’ve ever discovered…you ignore this link at your peril) from tumblr

5.  More people live in this circle than out of it

Seth Godin and Heath Brothers: Failure is a key ingredient to success

Seth Godin blog picture

I’ve been reading a lot of Seth Godin lately.  He’s a great source to read when taking any type of risk on any type of venture.  Here’s a short youtube video that succinctly sums up his philosophy.

Essentially, his recipe is:

Step 1)  Do it.
Step 2)  Fail.
Step 3)  Learn.
Step 4)  Make appropriate adjustments.
Step 5)  Try again.
Step 6)  Repeat Steps 1 through 5 until you…
Step 7)  Succeed.

Yes, this advice is simple and banal, and it makes the cynic in all of us cringe. “Surely it’s more complicated than this,” we tell ourselves, “I don’t want to put all of my time and hard work into a venture just to have it fail.  Let’s look into it more before we rashly jump in.”  Until, before you know it, you’re 75 and you haven’t ‘jumped into’ anything because you’ve always managed to talk yourself out of it.  Ah, yes, we’re all familiar with that most insidious of human tendencies: rationalization.

I think the main reason most people quit either before or after Step 1 is that, for some reason, we have this bizarre expectation that we need to go straight from Step 1 to Step 7, skipping all of the hardship and toil in between.  We think that enough background research and initial preparation will enable us to lay out a perfectly straight path to success before we even start.  But as Seth Godin points out:

I don’t think the right question is, “is the path perfect?”

It’s probably, “Is this somewhere I’d like to go?”

If you always ask yourself the former question before you start a new venture, launch day will never come because any worthwhile venture involves unknowns. A perfect path does not exist for any venture worth doing.

In contrast, the latter question leaves the possibility of failure — or at least imperfection — wide open.  In a similar vein, Dan and Chip Heath, in their awesome book Switch, write that in order to prevent us from quitting when we encounter failure, we need to create “the expectation of failure.”  That is, before the launch of any tough and risky project, we must disabuse ourselves of the foolish notion that Step 7 directly follows Step 1, and instead we must realize that,

“[w]e will struggle, we will fail, we will be knocked down — but throughout, we’ll get better, and we’ll succeed in the end. …[P]eople will persevere only if they perceive falling down as learning rather than as failing.”

To slightly alter a phrase from Switch: “success isn’t an event; it’s a process.”  Now get started.  And expect to fail.  You’ll be surprised to find that it’s actually kind of liberating.

Inaugural Post

The byline of my blog is “learning by doing.”  After spending the majority of my life as an obedient pupil mindlessly advancing through the formal education system, being forced to read a multitude of boring textbooks and listen to myriad boring professors, I’ve come to realize that nothing spurs actual learning like doing.  I guess the motivation behind this blog can be broken down into three — erm — sub-motivations:

  1. To share my successes and failures (and there will be more failures than successes) as I attempt to learn new concepts, acquire new skills, and master new technologies.
  2. To demonstrate that by setting a goal of constant skill acquisition through doing everybody can take control of their own career path and ultimately obtain their dream job (without going into crippling student loan debt).
  3. To show that formal education is much less effective than disciplined self-education.

All three of these sub-motivations involve huge, intimidating topics like Fear of Failure, Goal-Setting, Taking Responsibility for Your Own Destiny, Growing Up, Self-Discipline, the whole Passion vs. Practicality debate when it comes to making Career Choices, as well as the Formal Education vs. Self-Education debate.

Being 23 and fresh out of  university, these topics fascinate me because I’m currently living through them.  Until now I’ve mostly mulled through these topics on my own, up there in the ol’ brain.  But, seeing as how every human being on the planet has to, at one point in their life, stumble through this time (usually in their early twenties), I thought, “Hey, why not talk about it.”  I look forward to the discussion.  I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do.