Thursday, February 17, 2005

Sales and Pygmalion

Sales careers allow for upward mobility far more than is realized. And they allow for the creative development of one's self as well.

Two books that provide more surprising reconciliations of these opposing positions than one might at first expect:

1. Napolean Hill's Think and Grow Rich, is a 1930s book that reads like a marvelous combination of 19th century self-help and 1990s new age visionary material.

2. Dale Carnegie's original How to Win Friends and Influence People. The original version of Carnegie's book (again, 1930s?) surprised me by being far more literary than are the contemporary Dale Carnegie advertisements. Almost every chapter included a quotation by Emerson, the arch-advocate of individuality.

As with most dualisms, the dualism between being affable and engaging, on the one hand, and being authentic and individual, on the other hand, is a false dichotomy. I'm sure that most of us have been slighted for being too idiosyncratic and not sufficiently conformist at times - and thus we have the distaste for the obsequiousness that we usually associate with sales and Dale Carnegie. There are certainly oily individuals whom I personally find repulsive who seem to have followed Dale Carnegie's guidelines.

That said, the most engaging people manage to combine deep authenticity with warm personableness. That is, it is possible to be true to oneself and to "win friends and influence people." Doing so may be an art, balancing the yin and the yang, but the fact that it is an art of balance means that we should honor both sides of the balance, and not despise one or the other. In a free society, many dimensions of human behavior that currently seem to be cartoonish and awkward will gradually be developed into amazing and dazzling arts.

In my schools I have always told students that they should strive to be amazing. I believe that there are 6 billion different ways to be amazing, that there are an infinite number of rich niches to be occupied, and that the entire goal of education is to help each young person discover who it is that they can be magnificently better than anyone else. We all have a comparative advantage; we are never allowed or encouraged to discover it.

Another relevant book, by a Jungian psychologist: James Hillman, In Search of Character and Calling, which is a paean to individuality; it is a good book for parents to read to help them appreciate the individuality of their children in the face of the enforced conformism of the education establishment.

“In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential that we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.”

~Carl Jung


Blogger chris said...

you write well =D

8:52 PM  

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