A review of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

by on Sunday, April 5th, 2009, under Books, Reviews, Self Improvement, Well-Being

How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People

I recently picked up this book to learn how to become a more effective speaker not knowing that I would take so much away from it.  The lessons in this book seem to extend far beyond the limits of speaking, and I find that it is a very good read for anyone who assumes a leadership role in business and in life.  Whether you are leading a team of employees through a tight deadline or a group of children to the dentist, this book will help you decide how to handle many situations and get the results you want.  Dale Carnegie introduces his ideas while also providing many useful (and true) stories that illustrate how to execute the techniques.

The main point I take away from this book is to always make the interactions you have with people a positive experience for those people.  For example, don’t criticize people directly for doing things wrong, but rather focus on their strong points and subtly indicate ways they can improve.  Make them think that the ideas of what needs improvement were their ideas and they will run with them.  Don’t argue with people; you can never win an argument.  If you’re wrong, you will lose, and even in you are right, you will have left the other person with damaged pride and you ultimately spent all of your time arguing rather than getting anything done.  If you simply admit that you may be wrong (even if you know you are not) and if you emphasize the points in their argument that you agree with, the situation will be diffused and the other person will start listening to you with an agreeable attitude.  This is one area where I know I struggle because I am “always right” in my own mind.  It will be interesting to see how my interactions change with people.

After reading this book, it is clear to me that some of my past employers (and my current employer) have a grasp on the concepts presented in this book.  Maybe they have even read it.  The interesting thing about the companies who utilize the techniques in this book is that their employees generally work towards the common interest of the company, not just for a paycheck.  The general mood amongst employees is positive and turnover rates are lower.  Of my departments current employees, the average employment term is approximately 8 years.  I honestly believe that there is nothing more important to this factor than the leadership techniques of the management and the owners.  We are all friends outside of work and most of us enjoy coming into the office on a day to day basis.

The more recent revisions of the book have four major sections which cover the following concepts in depth.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a man’s Name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. Avoid arguments.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong.
  3. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions the other person will answer yes to.
  6. Let the other person do the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Sympathize with the other person.
  10. Appeal to noble motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to other people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes first.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise every improvement.
  7. Give them a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.


I think that everyone could benefit from reading this book.  Some of the stories provided seem to be a little far fetched to think their results would be common, but that is my only criticism and I would call this book “money well spent”.

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Sunday, April 5th, 2009 Books, Reviews, Self Improvement, Well-Being No Comments

A tip for preventing identity theft

by on Wednesday, April 1st, 2009, under Financial

File Sharing Identity TheftSo, I was watching the news on TV tonight and they did a special on preventing identity theft.  I found out that one of the easiest ways to get any random persons information is by finding tax return documents on popular file sharing networks.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I loaded up a very common file sharing application and performed a search. The returns I found were all prepared by a particular, but VERY popular, tax application. I will not mention which tax application publicly, nor will I mention which file sharing network because I do not wish to bring ill repute to either.

I contacted a few of the people who’s tax returns were publicly available to let them know about the issue. They were all very grateful to hear from me and I advised them to uninstall the file sharing applications. Most of these people were elderly and had children who were using the computer to download music over the file sharing networks. Unfortunately, I cannot call everyone on an individual basis, and there are legal concerns involved in what I was doing, regardless of intent. So, I decided to do my part by sharing this knowledge with my readers here.

Make sure your file sharing applications are configured so that they do not share sensitive (or copyrighted) data. I would also recommend that you do NOT keep documents like this on your computer. Back them up to a CD or some other media and delete them from your PC. I don’t want to be calling you someday (well, at least not about this).

Good luck out there…

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Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 Financial 1 Comment

My experience with the Atkins diet

by on Saturday, March 7th, 2009, under Atkins Diet

Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution

Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution

Hey everyone!  Today, I want to introduce you to the Atkins diet and explain how it has changed my life.  But first, I should let you know that I do not follow the diet 100% to the “T”, though I do generally stick to the guidelines set forth.  There is a book called “Dr Atkins’ New Diet Revolution” that you can get second hand on eBay for super cheap or you can usually pick it up at your local library.  If you are considering this diet, I highly recommend reading the book and discussing it with your doctor first.

So, how did I get started with Atkins?  Well, let’s go back a few years first.   Throughout high school, I weighed in at a lean 180 lbs and I stood 6’2″ tall.  After high school, I started putting on the pounds.  I don’t really know what changed, other than the fact that I was getting older, but during the next 4 years, I would add on 30 lbs a year.  Yep, at age 22, I weighed in at 301 lbs!  I ‘decided’ to go to the doctor to get a checkup at my mother’s request… You know how moms are 🙂 …  Turns out that this was a very eye opening experience.  I found out that I was generally in good health, but I had VERY high total cholesterol (to the tune of 298 mg/dL).  They wanted to start me on cholesterol medications right away, so I took the prescription and decided to try losing some weight to see how that affected things.

The average diet

I joined a gym (the RiverPlex in Peoria, IL), and I picked up swimming, 4 times a week for half an hour.  I started cutting back on my fat and calorie intake, and I took my daily dose of cholesterol medications up until my first check up.  Upon returning to my family doctor a couple of months later for blood work, we had noticed a great improvement in my cholesterol levels (190mg/dL) and I had lost 20 pounds.  All seemed to be well, but I was still overweight and my weight loss was not moving any further.  I decided to stop taking my medications (against my doctors recommendation) to see how my cholesterol levels looked with diet and exercise alone.  When I had my blood work done again, my total cholesterol jumped back up to 272mg/dL.  My doctor told me that it is likely genetic based on my family’s history, and that I will need to stay on the medications.  I have since come to peace with that, and I take my daily doses.  But, I was now motivated more than ever to lose the weight and see what happens.  Unfortunately, cutting out fat and calories meant I would leave the dinner table feeling hungry and deprived.  I was never able to maintain this for a long period of time and I could not get below 280 lbs.

Weight Watchers

My next step was to give Weight Watchers a shot.  I have to say, if you do Weight Watchers, the meetings do really help to motivate you.  Knowing that others are monitoring your progress gives you a little more will power when faced with a slice of pizza.  I managed to drop another 13 lbs by switching to this nutritional plan (sitting me at 267lbs).  I could not lose any more though because I could not satisfy my appetite on the points system.  I wanted this to work, but I was miserable the whole way.  I could not stand the thought of staying on this diet for another year, yet alone a lifetime.

The surgical contemplation

After a couple years of trying to lose weight, I felt like there was nothing that would make my food cravings go away in the long term, and I would rather live fat than miserable.  So as a last resort, I asked my family doctor about the Lap-Band procedure.  Knowing about the things I had tried, my doctor decided to recommend me for the procedure to the Peoria Surgical Group.   As an eligibility requirement, I had my Body Mass Index (BMI) checked using the BOD POD system at the RiverPlex.  The test calculated my BMI at 37.5, which meant that I needed to have 2 weight related health conditions to qualify for the surgery.  My doctor and I discussed this and determined that I would not qualify.  My only hope was to gain some more weight so that I would register a BMI of 40+ and qualify without the weight related medical conditions.  This was hardly an option for the health conscious.

A second opinion

My doctor retired a few months later, so I looked for a new family doctor a little closer to my home.  I needed to have blood work one, so I went to the local Proctor First Care and told them I needed a new family doctor.  While explaining my dieting history, my new doctor asked me about the kinds of diets I was trying.  He asked me to create a food log (from memory) so he could see exactly what I was eating on each of the diets and how much.  He noticed something that all of my food selections had in common; they were all high in carbohydrates.  Knowing that my reason for failure was that I never felt satisfied, he approached my dieting needs with a new perspective.  He requested that try the Atkins diet and limit my calorie intake to 1500 calories a day.  Having tried low calorie diets in the past, I quickly discounted the second part and decided to just try Atkins.

I bought the book and read through it.  This was very important for me because the book described why the diet works, and armed with this knowledge, I could make better decisions when I would select the foods to consume.  It sounded tough, since I LOVE Chinese, breads, and pastas; I didn’t know how long I would survive on the diet.  But I had faith (and no other options), so I bit the bullet and got started.

Breaking the carbohydrate addiction

This is something I want everyone to understand, and understand well.  I did not think I would last a month without all of the highly refined foods that I was use to.  I mean, bread is a staple of American cuisine.  But, there is an addiction…  An addiction that’s as real as the addiction many people suffer with Nicotine.  That’s why people think they would be miserable without these foods.  It’s quite synonymous to asking a smoker to give up their cigarettes.  The good news is, having battled both addictions, I can tell you that the carbohydrate addiction is much easier and quicker to break than a nicotine addiction.

If you follow the Atkins plan, you will experience carbohydrate withdrawals for a few days and find that your energy levels have plummeted.  Your body is use to converting carbohydrates into glucose for energy, and taking most of the fat you consume to ‘storage’ (to be used as energy if you ever find yourself “starving”).  When you cut out the carbohydrates, your body switches to burning fat for energy as if you are starving.  By burning fat for energy, your cravings for carbohydrates will greatly decrease, and you will find that the pasta you love so much isn’t screaming your name as loud as it use to.  Your body will no longer be able to maintain the fat stores it had built up when your consumed fat was primarily going to storage.  This is how a low-carb diet promotes fat loss.  Now, a low fat, high-carb diet can also achieve this because you will always burn a little fat, just not as your primary fuel on a high-carb diet.  If you burn a little fat, and consume even less, you will lose fat.  So why did the high-carb diets not work well for me?

Riding the glucose roller coaster

Glucose is the body’s fuel, and your body has a system in place that tells you to eat based on your glucose levels.  With high-carb diets, the refined carbohydrates are quickly converted into glucose creating a spike (simple carbohydrates like sugar convert almost instantly).  Initially, you will be very energetic but as the glucose depletes, it drops quickly from its high horse.  This drop triggers your hunger into action, and will make you feel drained.  Have you ever gone to a Chinese buffet and pigged out only to find yourself tired and wanting to take a nap an hour later?  Did you find yourself in front of the fridge, with your stomach in pain from overeating, looking for something to munch on?  This is a perfect example of how glucose spikes affect the body.  Stuffed to the gills, all you want to do is snack and sleep.  In my experience, the Chinese buffet will provide one of the most prominent demonstrations of a glucose spike, but most high-carb foods will create this effect in a subtle manner.  This is why I would never feel satisfied on a high-carb diet.  Every time my glucose quickly dropped an hour or so after a meal, I’d start grazing.

A low-carbohydrate diet forces fat to be your body’s primary source of glucose.  Fat is not an efficient energy source and it takes much more time to convert it to glucose.  This greatly reduces glucose spikes and stabilizes your blood sugar levels.  The hungry engine has been put on cruise control.  You will feel much more energetic because you are getting a constant supply of fuel, and you will not feel hungry nearly as often since glucose levels are not dropping as fast as the Dow Jones index is.  This cuts back greatly on how much you consume, thus promoting weight loss, naturally and healthily.

Is Atkins safe?

Don’t get me wrong, if you do any diet improperly, it could be very dangerous.  Many people did low-carb diets wrong, and everyone assumed that low-carb diets were unhealthy.  In the same breath, I want you to know that the same applies to a low fat diet.  If all you eat is angel food cake and maple syrup, you’re going to have health problems.  The proper Atkins diet promotes high intake of vegetables and healthy meats, but also allows moderate intake of fruits, cheeses, and nuts.  You may include grains and breads, but these will be the least consumed by volume.  Hmm, this sounds a lot like the things mankind was eating for thousands of years before the obesity pandemic, doesn’t it? 😉  If you want to know if it is safe, talk to your doctor about it.  After all, if you should trust anyone on what’s safe for you to eat, it should be your doctor.

I am being monitored by my doctor closely, and my overall health is looking better since starting the diet in March 2008.  Now, 1 year later, I am 56 lbs lighter than when I started (my current weight as of the time of this writing is 228 lbs), I am filling up at every meal, and I enjoy what I am eating.  I am excited about the idea of staying on this plan for a lifetime and I am very excited about reaching my goal of 190 lbs.  If I had followed Atkins to the “T” (I still consume more breads than I should), I would probably be at my goal.  But for me, since this is a lifelong plan, I don’t mind if it takes another year or two.  You would never hear me say that on a low-fat diet.  EVER!

Stay healthy!

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Saturday, March 7th, 2009 Atkins Diet No Comments

Low-carb “Taco Bell” style chicken quesadillas

by on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009, under Recipes

This is a delicious, low carbohydrate recipe that tastes almost exactly like Taco Bell’s chicken quesadilla.  The secret is to get the “Creamy Jalapeno Sauce” from your local Taco Bell store.  It costs 10 cents for a 2 ounce container, and I usually use an once on each quesadilla, so this gives you an idea of how much to buy.  Below, you will find a list of what you need, and the brands used are important.  This is especially true of the shells.  If you don’t have this brand of shells, please don’t give up on the recipe until you try it with the right shells.  I buy them at my local Super Wal-Mart (they are in the refrigerated section by the cheeses).  Click the images to see the brands and nutrition info*.

What you’ll need

*Nutrition information for the Creamy Jalapeno sauce can be found by going to http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/calculator/ and clicking on Condiments and Sauces -> Creamy Jalapeno Sauce

  • 2   Tortilla shells
  • 3/4 c   mix of shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2   of a chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 oz   Creamy Jalapeno Sauce from Taco Bell

Net Carbohydrates: 13.5 grams

Top one shell with half of the cheese, and then add cubed chicken.  Spread around 1 oz of the jalapeno sauce and top with the remaining cheese (if you will be making multiple quesadillas, load the sauce in a plastic sandwich bag and cut off the corner so you can squeeze the sauce out.)  Preheat a skillet (so it will cook fast and you do not lose cheese), and then carefully transport the shell to the pan.  Throw the remaining shell on top and press down while it cooks to help it melt together.  After a couple of minutes, hold the quesadilla to the pan and then flip the pan upside down (leaving the quesadilla securely in your hand).   Put the pan back on the stove and drop the quesadilla back in to cook the other side.  A couple of minutes later pull it out and enjoy!

Let me know what you think. 🙂


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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 Recipes 6 Comments

My struggle to quit smoking

by on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009, under Well-Being

Ever since I was 13 years old, I’ve been battling a Nicotine addiction caused by my decision to smoke cigarettes.  Today, I feel lucky that I can say the addiction is mostly behind me, and I would like to share my story so that it may help others.

I said I was going to quit at least 100 times, and I tried to quit at least 40 times.  I tried the patch, nicotine gum, pills, and finally, just plain old cold turkey.  The Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT’s) like the patch and the gum really proved quite useless.  You learn how to stop physically smoking, but this still feeds the addiction leaving you with the cravings throughout the day.  I consider this method to be, for the most part, ineffective torture.  I did try Smoke Away (which has an NRT component that could be excluded), and this product seemed to work well.  I quit for 6 months after I came off the Smoke Away plan, but ultimately, I started smoking again.

Cold turkey is the way to go!  It will be extremely difficult, don’t get me wrong, but that is much of why it works so well in the long term.  If you conquer the addiction, you will not soon forget how difficult it was and how much effort you put into it.  This pain becomes encouragement later on and helps prevent you from slipping up.  Cold turkey is also the quickest route to recovery since it does not feed the addiction while you quit.

Quitting cold turkey is no easy task, trust me.  The difficulty alone will help you decide if you are really ready to quit or not.  For months, I would quit cold turkey on Monday, and then smoke on the weekends and have to start all over.  This started becoming a problem at work because my mind was not functional when going through withdrawals (and I am a software developer, so I need my brain to work).  Degrading quality in my work was a very motivating factor for me because I love my job (and in a roundabout way, my job now depended on my quitting).

The final motivating factor for me came after a tour to see VNV Nation play 7 concerts.  On my 18 hour drive home, I got to thinking and decided that I wanted to pursue a musical hobby.  I realized that this meant I may end up doing some singing.  The reasons were stacking up, and I finally just quit.  I didn’t have a single puff during the entire drive home, and that was so difficult that the following week seemed simple in comparison.  Remember, I was sitting in a car for 18 hours with nothing to do but crave nicotine.  That was painful, and I remembered that pain later on whenever I thought about having a cigarette.

After a year and a half of smoking cessation, I began smoking socially (when I would go out for drinks, etc.).  It was at this point that I noticed just how much of an effect smoking had on my quality of life.  I always thought I had hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) because I would sweat like crazy even in the winter.  This condition had silently disappeared when I quit smoking and I didn’t even notice it.  It quickly returned with the social smoking.  I also have a condition where my lungs occasionally snag on the inside of my rib cage and it can cause minor pain to breathe.  The doctors told me that there was a lack of lubrication in the area, and it wasn’t much to worry about.  I found that this condition also returned with the smoking.  I also experience severe throat pain the next morning, after a night of smoking. 

Now that I can see all of these downfalls that were previously forgotten, I have recommitted myself to quitting and I have been enjoying a lifestyle without these problems ever since.

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 Well-Being No Comments