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Follow This Rule — If You Want To Be Popular (1922) (mikecanex.wordpress.com)
113 points by mikecane on Dec 26, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

Politics aside, I'm fascinated by the personal recollections of people who have met Bill Clinton [1]. Bill Clinton is legendary for making people who shake his hand feel like they are the most important person in the room.

A book I read (can't remember the title) said something that has stuck with me. Paraphrased: "Everyone can be as charismatic as Bill Clinton. You do it on a job interview or on a first date. The secret is... he does it all the time"

"Clinton had this huge charisma. He was wearing a pair of black trousers and a blue checked shirt with his sleeves rolled up. His presence made everyone around him so comfortable. He had this extraordinary ability to make us feel very special. He took time out to speak to each one of us — asking about our family, where we were raised and educated, what were the things in our life that we hold important." [2]

[1] http://www.bing.com/search?q=meeting+bill+clinton+%2B+charis...

[2] http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120507/jsp/calcutta/story_154...

Ironically similar stuff has been said about George W. Bush:


But I guess in today's world it is unlikely to take a high office that is based on popularity by not having a winning personality - even so the facets might become distorted through media.

A great must-read on the same idea - with lots of examples from very different social situations - is the popular book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Win_Friends_and_Influenc...) . It's only 300 pages long, but there are a lot of great principles in it that one can follow.

I second this recommendation, with an aside: the title was an incredible turn-off to me, but I read it anyway and it is worth its weight.

It is not lessons on "How to be False and Unctuous" or "How to Abuse the Kindness of Others," which were the original images that the title evoked from me.

I have to agree - I found the title monumentally off-putting as well (and wound up reading it on the Kindle to avoid having the book title displayed to my fellow train passengers, how sad!) but I was glad that I read it.

The book seems like it'd be "your guide to becoming a smarmy dick in 30 days!" but it really stresses sincerity and other various laudable goals. A lot of the book is obvious in hindsight but it's pretty well written and has become a classic for good reason.

Went looking for it and found a copy on the Internet Archive: http://archive.org/details/BooksOfArslanhowToWinFriendsAndIn...

Hmm, "Copyright 1981". Pretty sure that's not a legitimately freely-available copy.

it was originally published in the thirties.

As with the other article from 1922 [1], this article is just so much better written and conveys a far more widely useful point than the articles you see in the media today. Feels a bit like journalism in general has gone backwards enormously.

I think this because journalism is now ranked by 'page views', when in 1922, journalism was ranked by professional editors. For journalism, page views = ad views = revenue, so optimizing for anything else is folly. A short article with eye catching headlines and sensationalism is always going to outdo a great article like the OP. Any way to reverse this trend? Even pay-for journalism today is still plagued by 'page views', as no follow up article is going to be written if the views are low. Back in 1922, nobody really knew the page views and they could only be badly estimated with a reader's survey.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4969041

EDIT: I've actually changed my mind - journalism of this standard is definitely alive and well, you just have to look to lesser known bloggers now instead of big media. This is probably the true death-knell of big media if I ever saw it - loss of quality content. I present the following blog post from this year as evidence:


The way writing styles have changed in general in 100 years is also interesting!

Pshaw. What a wide canopy you throw, "Journalism!" Are you talking about BuzzFeed's brand of linkbaity lists? The NYT's high-class reportage? National newsmagazines (Newsweek, RIP)? Television news-style storytelling? Or the financial press... or the regional publications out there (Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle come to mind)... or industry publications -- heck, Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting embarks on journalism, no doubt.

"No follow up article is going to be written in the views are low," you write. Says who? You've proven your ability to cite sources, why not cite this one? Professional editorship is dead? What an assumption.

You mention big media in your edit. Good of you to get more specific with your straw-man, I appreciate that. However, if you're sick of the perceived decline of what you think to be "journalism," call me sick of people who lump the worst of this world of reportage and writing in with everyone else.

And this article survived from 1922. So it is probably good. Selection bias?

Also, these are two articles hand picked from one year from all sources that printed news that year. That's a very small sample size to extrapolate from.

I think you and the GP were making the same (valid) point.

> Feels a bit like journalism in general has gone backwards enormously.

OTOH, the article is not so much journalism as it is a parable.

Really? I didn't find that article impressive at all. I thought it was sloppily written, short on in-depth analysis, and really didn't have much of a point beyond "my old job sucked." Note how many times he says "was that too many puns? Oh well." Maybe you'd call that the modern style, but for me all that says is he didn't bother to revise and redraft enough. It shows I think too that he hasn't really thought hard about what he's written because he doesn't have many points to make. If you redraft enough you end up developing your ideas and either realising you had something important to say or didn't. This guy didn't bother.

So he complains about thoughtless, rushed modern culture, but his writing is a case in point. I don't respect that.

I feel journalism is bad, and getting worse. The so called need for 'balance' and quick news cycles leads to bad writing. However this isn't data. What would be a measure that would show quality over time? Readership would be one - although this would be skewed by people changing media (paper to electronic). Industry profits might be another, although this is indirect and is messed up by the enormous amount of advertising dollars in the mix. Whats a better measure of quality?

Quality is always compromised when you set your sights on appealing to everyone. Most websites do that because they would rather make a lot of money than have the integrity that comes from higher standards and focus.

The irony is they cheat themselves out of their own success because they're too busy trying to pander.

Worse yet, they cheat society from advancing as quickly.

Sometimes I meet people who follow this advice, and it usually doesn't go very well. Yes, egotism and self-centeredness is common, but it is a vice, and I try not to be that way. I really don't appreciate it when someone tries to encourage me to be egotistical. It is manipulative and harmful to me.

Someone is doing it wrong then. Appealing to one's ego isn't the same as encouraging one to be egotistical.

If anyone is wondering about the use of "to-day" (and, as a bonus, "to-morrow"), the following are from Etymonline.


O.E. todæge, to dæge "on (the) day," from to "at, on" + dæge, dative of dæg "day". Generally written as two words until 16c., after which it usually was written to-day until early 20c.


late 13c., to morewe, from O.E. to morgenne "on (the) morrow," from to "at, on" + morgenne, dative of morgen "morning". Written as two words until 16c., then as to-morrow until early 20c.


The latter reminds me of Spanish where they say "mañana por la mañana" (lit. tomorrow during the morning) and Portuguese where they say "amanhã da manhã" (lit. tomorrow of the morning).

"the only way to “sell” yourself, or anything else, is to get other people’s interest by showing your interest in them"

This can easily be taken the wrong way and come across completely unauthentic. For example ..


If you liked this article you should read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence people as it is very much along these lines. It's a famous book for a reason: the advice is tried and true.

Thanks for the article! Loved reading it

Brilliant read with many takeaways! Mike - Thanks for sharing!

Excellent read, thanks for sharing!

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