Elevator Pitch

I was challenged, as part of my Praxis participation, to create a video resume of sorts. This “elevator pitch” was not to include my age, education status, or job titles. It was difficult, but this is what I created. It meets the criteria. Would you be interested in interviewing me for a job if you saw this video? Was I too specific? Not specific enough?

What does it say about me, that I’d rather make a short video like this than have just another “dazzling” resume?

Others First

 

A couple days ago I began reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I’ve held off reading it for years thinking, perhaps as you might, that it was a sleazy book for even sleazier salesmen and saleswomen.

How many times can I learn the same lesson—not to judge a book by its cover? To pretend to be in a position of judgment of a book having never read a single page is a sin that I and others have committed innumerable times in our lives. And it’s a habit I can’t seem to break. But there’s been an awakening.

I realize now. I realize how much of life passes me by when I write things off out of hand. That’s no way to live. This book made me cry—definitely wasn’t expecting that! The thoughts and emotions it’s inspired in me have initiated something of a turning point in my life.

In his book Carnegie lays out the lessons he has learned about how humans interact, what our motives are, how we can use this knowledge to help ourselves and others communicate more effectively and engage in mutually beneficial relationships and transactions. Very few of Carnegie’s words are devoted to teaching you specific selling techniques. Instead he focuses on helping you build relationships with people, which most obviously includes the people with whom you do business.

The fact that I was so far off the mark concerning the sleaziness of this book is extraordinary given how much time Carnegie devotes to stressing sincerity in dealing with people. Smile often, he says, but don’t fake it. Be nice to people. Offer them praise not flattery (flattery is the sleazy form of praise). Be genuinely interested in other people. Consider this excerpt:

If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can’t radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to get something out of the other person in return—if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve.

Oh yes, I did want something out of that chap. I wanted something priceless. And I got it. I got the feeling that I had done something for him without his being able to do anything whatever in return for me. That is a feeling that flows and sings in your memory long after the incident is past.

It is perhaps the least sleazy book I’ve ever come across.

I’m flying through this book, ignoring the risk of paper cuts, kicking up a microscopic amount of dust with every vigorous flip of the page, all to absorb the next lesson that Mr. Carnegie has to offer.

The part that had me in tears, if you’re interested, told of a young nursing student who shared a Thanksgiving meal with a lonely boy in the hospital. Disclaimer: I’m a sucker for a human story like that, but I don’t think that’s the only reason I cried. I think that simple story is incredibly powerful for anyone with a heartbeat and a conscience. The story has absolutely nothing (and everything) to do with making that huge sale you’ve been hoping for, or how best to land a promotion at work.

You have desires. You’re not alone. Instead of telling people about what you want, tell them about what they want, and how you can help them get it. See the world through their eyes. And be nice. And care about people and their interests. Even if you don’t make the sale, you’ve done something even better—made the relationship. I’ll take a friendship over a sale any day.

Besides, Carnegie’s thesis, from what I’ve surmised only having half-finished the book, is that making the relationship takes care of selling. You’ll hardly have to sell them on anything at all if you follow the author’s advice.

And I’m not trying to sell you on this book, I’m trying to sell you on a more enjoyable life—one with increased amounts of joy and fun and camaraderie and control and yes, money. I’m not speaking from a place of having reaped the benefits of this book. I haven’t yet tested any of the book’s suggestions, but there must be a reason why it’s sold millions of copies over the last 80 years, right? Books filled with unhelpful or untrue maxims cannot boast of the sustained success that this book has had over the decades. The lessons within are priceless, timeless, and some of them, Carnegie is not shy in revealing, have existed for millennia.

Carnegie wasn’t an omniscient sage—not a modern-day Confucius—he was simply a compiler of wisdom. And I’m very, very glad that he was. For without this book I’d have still been walking around, selfish and ignorant, not knowing the possibilities of a life spent thinking of others first.

Read This! (And Everything Else You Possibly Can!)

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Never underestimate the value of a lesson read. One of the many things I wish I had seen more of at college is people reading. Hardly any of my friends read in college outside of assigned textbook readings, tweets, and reddit forums. Those are fine places where useful information is certainly disseminated. However, a person who only reads those things and not much else will be denied the wealth of knowledge that the person who reads books, magazines, articles, blog posts, etc. possesses.

My advice to you is to read everything you can get your hands on. Sounds simple, don’t it? Get a subscription to a magazine. With a student discount, it ends up being about a dollar a week most of the time, sometimes less. If you’re not a college student, go to the local library. There will be lots of magazines there. (College libraries have these also.)

If you are reading this as a college student and thinking you don’t have time to read, you’re lying to yourself. I see you on Facebook and Snapchat six hours a day. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. Make time to read. Sure, you can get a synthesized version of the information you’re after in a twenty minute YouTube video, or a podcast, or a sparknotes summary, but there is no substitute for the real thing.

The main joy underlying my recommendation that you read any and everything you can is being exposed to new ways of thinking and new topics heretofore untapped by you. That should be what education is truly all about—not Greek Life, GPAs, and football games. Who knows? An article you read a month from now might make you want to change majors. A book you read might make you realize that you’ve been treating your friend poorly and that you should forgive them. I don’t know the specifics.

Make a special effort, if you’re going to accept my advice, to read things that on first appearance don’t fit into your worldview. If you’re a liberal, go read a few Breitbart articles. If you’re a conservative, go read a few non-Breitbart articles. If you’re into movies, go read a few reviews of a movie critic with whom you usually disagree.

If travel broadens the mind, then reading does so much more efficiently. Reading a book doesn’t require a passport, nor several hundred dollars, nor the prospect of dysentery. (I’m not saying don’t travel.) Books don’t just allow the traveling through space but through time as well. You can, with a simple google search, be instantly transported to Verona hundreds of years ago, or to a whaling voyage out of eighteen century New England.

My love of words leaves an ineffable bias on my heart. You don’t have to love the English language as much as I do to get the type of utility and use out of reading I’m talking about. You can even hate reading. But you should still do it. The opportunities it affords you are priceless.

Here are some books I’m reading at the moment if you’re interested.

  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  • The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
  • Lessons for the Young Economist by Bob Murphy
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (never thought this would be on my list)

Please, please, please read. I’m begging you. An hour a day. Break it up into smaller timechunks if you have to, just do it. The world is counting on you.

 

My Story – Concerning Roads

Source: http://thewireless.co.nz/system/production/content_images/images/000/001/748/full/hobbits-inside.jpg?1418674019

Who am I? What am I? Which of those is the more interesting question? Are the answers even that different?

A few months ago I thought I was a listless college graduate with a road ahead of him. I hoped the road would be decades long. But I didn’t know yet just how wide the road was. (I still don’t.)

“This road isn’t my road anyway,” I used to say. “This road was paved before I was even born.” And I was angry and depressed and scared about the road before me that I knew wasn’t really mine.

It was during my spell of post-graduate reflection that I realized something: All that there is of the road is past. Nothing is in front of me. The road hasn’t been paved for me. I’m paving it. The discovery, while perhaps the most exciting of my life, was a difficult one to stomach.

I was like the little boy who, wearing a life jacket on his parents’ boat, looks down at the water and longs to jump in; he knows not where or even how he’ll swim once he jumps, only that he wants it more than anything. I leapt two months ago.

I couldn’t find a job in “Corporate America.” Self-loathing, that ever insidious cancer, set in.

“Why did you even go to college? Why marketing? Why didn’t you try to be a poker player? Or a comedian? Why did you let everyone else make your decisions for you?” I asked myself.

My sheepish half-answers were always inadequate. Then came another epiphany.

The past did not and does not matter. I haven’t got much use for a rear-view mirror in my car. I’m the only one driving on my road. Onward!

I had just begun laying the first conscious bricks on my liferoad when I heard about Praxis. It’s an education/work program that lasts less than a year? It’s designed to help give open-minded young people personal and professional tools to live the lives they want? You’re guaranteed at least a $40,000 salary upon completion of the program? (A bricklayer has to eat, right?) The Praxis website might as well have said, “We’ll help you lay your bricks the way you want to lay them, Alex.”

But isn’t that what college does? No. College says, “This is how you need to lay your bricks if you want to be successful.” Screw college. Praxis, sign me up.

Rulemaking, as a rule, is a practice most commonly reserved for boxed-in ninnies, but every rule has an exception, doesn’t it? And absent rules, I’d probably end up with a heap of disjointed bricks. Here are the rules I’ve come up with for building my road:

  • Read and write every day. Words are your lifeblood.
  • Don’t let them win. That is, don’t do things because everyone else says you’re supposed to—think for yourself.
  • You do not require anyone’s permission to lay a brick.
  • Liberty, freethought, rationality, courage, altruism—these are the bricks you will use to pave your road.
  • Go outside. You can’t lay a road indoors.
  • Your road is to be big and passionate and loud.
  • Only through discourse can you smooth the cracks and bumps on your road.
  • It’s okay to change your beliefs. A provincial, curvy road is more pleasant to travel down than a straight and boring one.
  • Never be afraid to lay a brick on this road for hope that there’s a better one when this one ends.
  • Don’t let the fear of failure keep you in the boat. Jump! Jump! Jump! Once more unto the breach.

As my fellow bricklayers know, there is an irksome body that gets constantly in the way when it comes to laying roads: government. In this case, government doesn’t only mean government, though. It means anyone who stands in the way of me paving my road to my liking. There’s going to be lots of them, I know—haters and critics and jerks and regulations and laws. Fight them. There’s nothing else for it. And I wouldn’t want there to be. Struggle begets accomplishment, no?

There are some folks whose roads I’ve passed by and admired. Milton Friedman’s, Christopher Hitchens’s, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s, those of various friends and family. I will no doubt steal parts of their designs, but I will try not to mimic them too closely. For I want my road to be new and mine, not a tenth-rate knockoff. Anyway, I’ve got to go. There’s work to be done.