At 13, I read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and was resolutely disappointed.
First, it was on my dad’s bookshelf and clearly hadn’t helped him (forgive me, I was at that age when parents are terribly embarrassing).
Second, Dale Carnegie’s advice seemed to boil down to two things: a. being nice and b. listening to other people, even if they’re really boring. Even though I had been a teenager for less than a year, I obviously knew a lot more about popularity (or my lack-thereof) than this fuddy-duddy from the “olden days” (the book was first published in 1936).
As anyone who lived through the ‘80s knows, popularity could be bought for the price of a Lacoste polo shirt, a pair of Adidas three-stripe sneakers and the latest Bon Jovi cassette tape.
The real problem was that my dad was stingy and I finished delivering my scathing review of the most popular self-help book in history by telling him so!
My dad and a famous basketball player
Dad had obviously soaked up Mr Carnegie’s advice because he responded in two ways: a. he was nice and b. listened to me, even though my adult self admits I was being more than a little boring!
Then he told me respect is more important than popularity. By this time, I thought dad was not only embarrassing, but also crazy. The poor man was evidently clueless about life.
Strangely enough, while researching this blog post, I came across a famous quote that perfectly echoes dad’s viewpoint: “I firmly believe that respect is a lot more important, and a lot greater, than popularity,” said Julius Erving. And he should know … Erving is the most famous slam dunker in basketball history and is still the sixth highest scorer, even though he retired back in 1987.
Popularity versus respect
The difference between popularity and respect is that one is about surface appearance while the other is about the admirable qualities that lie within. In a world dominated by social media, it’s easy to be tricked into believing the person with the most “likes” is the winner.
However, would you do business with someone just because they’re cool? Um, probably not. You’re more likely to want to do business with someone you respect … and that usually comes down to what our grandparents called “good morals”.
Isn’t that old-fashioned?
Surprisingly, no. According to “The 10 Most Desirable Traits in Human Beings” by Carmen Honacker, the qualities we most value in other people, with a few of my own alterations, are:
- Integrity: Having a code of ethics, based on common decency, that we always stick to.
- Courage: Doing what’s right, even when it’s inconvenient or puts us in a difficult position.
- Humour: Laughing to get through the tough times.
- Social intelligence: Accurately reading people’s emotions or what’s going on below the surface in social situations.
- Emotional maturity: Owning your emotions and accepting the full range of feelings, yet choosing to express them maturely and appropriately.
- Kindness: “True popularity comes from acts of kindness,” says Bo Bonnett, who built and sold a technology company for $20 million by the age of 29. Kindness goes hand-in-hand with compassion — these people have your back.
- Self-confidence: No self esteem and an inflated sense of self worth are equally dangerous. We need a balanced view of our weaknesses and strengths, and to see mistakes as opportunities to grow.
- Discipline: Having the dedication and persistence to stick to your goals and working to achieve what you believe in.
- Generosity: Giving our time and money to create a better world. At the end of the day, life is about people — how can I sit back and do nothing when I am blessed, yet others are in need?
- Self-awareness: Acknowledging no-one is perfect and having the humility to put others first, not matter how successful we are.
Let’s be good girls and boys
The above list essentially comes down to being a responsible and decent adult, which, I’m the first to admit, isn’t always easy. You could also call it being a “goody two shoes” … and don’t those people come last? Apparently not.
Do a web search on how to be successful or happy and you’ll see them listed over and over again. Not once will you find anything about being cool, rich or breaking the golden rule. Gordon Gekko may work on Wall St, but it appears Pollyanna owns all eight blocks!