Bedtime Stories

June 1, 2009
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I took it as an insult to my social skills and overall worth as a human being. A book trying to tell me how to deal with people? For as long as I can remember, it has been sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust. The already worn pages seemed to become even older as the book sunk into obscurity towards the back of the pile. I occasionally would notice the book sitting among the other others and wonder why it was even there. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie—an old text written by an author long dead. This book definitely never made my reading list and I probably never would have even lifted the cover if it was up to me.

One night as I was trying to go to sleep, my father rushed into the room excitedly. He went straight to the bookshelf and scanned through it. My dad immediately picked up a book and came to the end of my bed to sit down.

“I want to read you this book,” he explained.

I didn’t know what to think. I peered over at the book in his hands and laughed out loud. He couldn’t be serious. He insisted that it wasn’t a joke and the matter became out of my control. I lay there and listened to the reading. At first the language seemed boring and uninteresting. It was all I could do to remain awake for the next sentence; and soon enough even that was impossible. My father returned the next night, however, and picked up in the book where he previously ended.

He continued this routine every evening for some time. I listened to the concise speech and clever analysis and I actually began to enjoy it. I would look forward to this part of the day and spend time reflecting on the previous chapters. My father started skipping some nights and forgetting others. The routine became so unsteady that it eventually ceased altogether. My interest in the book, though, was still there. I picked it up myself every night and continued reading. I even highlighted passages that I found to be particularly interesting. Not only did I feel a sense of accomplishment upon finishing the book, but I gained insight and perspective on life that still are with me today.

I would be in school working on a group project and I could deal with personal drama easily and efficiently by understanding the intentions of the other person. I would be talking to a teacher and instead of wasting time venting about my selfish desires, I could explain logically why raising my grade was in the teacher’s best interest.

Carnegie’s favorite quote comes from Henry Ford: “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” With advice such as this, the book proved to be more than a trite manual on how to make friends. It became a constant reminder to me of the way people think, and this knowledge is much better suited with me than it is collecting dust on the bookshelf.





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