I’m Going On A Diet—A Mental Diet

I’m Going On A Diet—A Mental Diet

Back in May, I committed to reading one chapter of How To Win Friends & Influence People and applying the chapter’s principle every week until I completed all 30 chapters. I made it to chapter four of the Dale Carnegie book and then I took a sharp left turn into discussing other topics on this blog. That said, I didn’t stop applying personal/professional development principles IRL.

The past few days I have been working on the art of getting to the point. I was extremely surprised to find that most of us have a hard time staying focused, particularly when we are asked a question. It seems we are intent on answering every question under the sun before we answer the one that was asked of us. (Seriously, pay attention for 24 hours and tell me it’s not true.) But worry not—like a good millennial I took to Twitter to share this observation with advice to help us get past this:


My next goal is to go on a mental diet. The concept, which originated from Emmet Fox’s The 7 Day Mental Diet and was popularized by Tony Robbins’ book Awaken The Giant Within, consists of eliminating negative thoughts and “consuming” only productive, positive thinking. If all goes well, I will be taking control of my mental and emotional states, improving my life by simply changing my outlook.

Most of us are naturally wired to see things from a “glass half empty” perspective first. (Remember how hard it was for me to go a week without criticizing, condemning or complaining?) It takes a conscious effort on our behalf to look at the positive side of a situation. Furthermore, it takes practice and repetition to rewire our brains toward defaulting to positive language. The good news is that the more we do it, the easier it becomes to be more positive and the more positive we are, the happier we feel. It’s a win-win.

This week listen for negative phrases. (They usually come with words like “no” and “not”.) As you hear one or when you catch yourself about to say one, find the positive way of conveying that same message and use that instead. Take a look at these 11 everyday phrases that have been reworked from negative to positive for inspiration.

Have a good example? Leave it in the comments below or send me a tweet @margaritakwells. And now, for your quote of the day:

“It’s not knowing what to do, but doing what you know.” —Tony Robbins

How To Get Me (And Others) To Do What You Want

How To Get Me (And Others) To Do What You Want

I desperately want ice cream right now—but you don’t care, do you? You’re thinking about your own hopes and dreams. That’s okay. As Dale Carnegie points out in the third chapter of How To Win Friends & Influence People, “The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want.”

So, if we’re all independently focused on our own wants, how do we even function as a society? How do we work together to meet our collective goals? Turns out the secret to influencing people is to think and talk to them in terms of what they want. You need to find the thing that is going to make them excited to do what you want them to do. As it relates to me right now, that “thing” is creamy, sugary, and frozen inside a 32-ounce tub.

Everyone has their “ice cream”. It can take the form of a personal, professional, financial or spiritual goal depending on the individual. As a manager, it is my job to know the underlying motivation(s) for each person on my team, just like I need to know their strengths and weaknesses. It allows me to set them and our team up for success by aligning their goals with those of our department. Furthermore, it is a tool I can use to motivate them when they have to do tasks they may not want to do.

It’s not always easy to know what people want. It takes a lot of communication with and observation of a person to fully understand what drives them across various situations. And, in some cases, people will strategically mask their motivations so they cannot be used against them. (As we previously discussed, these principles can—for better or for worse—be used manipulatively.) But, whether you can discern it or not, everyone wants something. Knowing and, more importantly, remembering what that is improves your ability to successfuly work with people.

Every decision a person makes, every word a person says reveals a little bit about what they value. With the right amount of effort and by taking the time to listen, you will start to pick up on these subtle clues, building overtime a robust database to help you frame scenarios on their terms. For example, if you were paying attention, this post gave you serious intel about my love of ice cream. Therein lies the secret to getting me (and others) to do what you want.

And now, for your quote of the day:

“If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” —Steve Jobs

How To Give Honest, Sincere Appreciation The Right Way

How To Give Honest, Sincere Appreciation The Right Way

Deep down everyone wants to feel appreciated, to feel important. What drives that feeling of importance is different for each of us. For example, mine surges from making a lasting impact on our society, whether its at work (by contributing to projects that are redefining the future of my community) or at home (by sharing advice, experiences, and resources to help you be your best “you”). What drives your feeling of importance?

Dale Carnegie’s big secret to dealing with people is to satisfy their hunger to feel important. He claims that when we make people feel appreciated, we can get them to do what we want for two reasons: (1) the positive interaction helps us bond; and, (2) it reinforces the behavior(s) we’re seeking.

The problem I have with this principle is that it is difficult to apply authentically. There is an ultra fine line between using it for good and using it for evil. I mean, doesn’t it sound manipulative to praise others to further a personal agenda? It certainly does to me.

Dale Carnegie acknowledges this challenge, which is why he delves into the difference between appreciation and flattery for nearly four pages of this chapter. He explains that appreciation surges from the heart, making it sincere and unselfish. It requires us to stop thinking about ourselves for ten seconds to reflect on the other person’s good qualities. On the other hand, flattery requires little effort because you’re defaulting to saying what the receiver wants to hear, making it insincere and selfish.


I wasn’t very successful with Principle 1 but, man, this one was way harder for me. It had my conscience on overdrive all of last week as I searched for opportunities to show appreciation honestly and sincerely. I kept thinking to myself, “Am I complimenting my colleagues because I truly feel this way, or because I want them to keep doing what they’re doing?” It was a total mind trip and, in the end, I complimented no one for fear of being disingenuous!

So here’s what I learned: you can make giving honest, sincere appreciation harder than it has to be. If you’re superglued to your moral compass like I am, you probably already go around saying “thank you” and passing out praise when it is warranted. Plus, you can already tell when you’re forcing out untruths. (I get that tell-tale feeling at the pit of my stomach.) Instead of overthinking it and giving no praise, let appreciation flow naturally and shift your focus on avoiding the use of flattery in those awkward professional and social situations. Don’t use flattery as a crutch.

“Don’t be afraid of enemies who attack you. Be afraid of the friends who flatter you.” —Mexican General Alvaro Obregón

Could You Go A Week Without Criticizing, Condemning Or Complaining? I Couldn’t.

Could You Go A Week Without Criticizing, Condemning Or Complaining? I Couldn’t.

Your enthusiasm and positive response toward last week’s Dale Carnegie post blew me away! I am thrilled so many of you read it and took the time to send your comments, questions, and follow-up thoughts in response. Based on the number of times I sent the link to the Southeast Florida in-person training calendar, we will be welcoming several new Dale Carnegie alumni this year.

I was also pleasantly surprised that some of you committed to reading How To Win Friends & Influence People with me and applying one principle a week. I can’t wait to hear your perspective as we reflect on the lessons of each chapter. Everyone is welcome to join us! Simply write your feedback in the comments section of each post or engage with me on Twitter.

Last Monday I read the first chapter, “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive,” wherein Dale Carnegie explains why it is disadvantageous to criticize, condemn or complain. He shares anecdotes of how human reasoning and pride convince even the worst of criminals that their wrongdoings are justifiable. (“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and and usually makes him strive to justify himself.”) He concludes by encouraging us to try to understand people, instead of condemning them, listing Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin as examples to follow.

I began the week optimistic about my ability to apply the first principle, but by 12:35 p.m. on Monday I was already throwing shade at my parents on Twitter:


Then, at work on Tuesday, I complained for 10 minutes straight about a meddling co-worker before I realized what I was doing and pulled the break. I was so embarrassed at myself afterward that I managed to keep all of Wednesday complaint-free, relapsing on Thursday when Trump withdrew from the Paris Accord and I was swept away by a sea of complaints on both sides of the aisle.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I did pretty well—focusing on praising the good, rather than condemning the bad, and going as far as to share my newfound attitude with the Twittersphere:


I’m proud to report that I have managed to keep it up through today. Admittedly, most of my success has been in not voicing my criticism and complaints out loud, but shouldn’t we reward my progress instead of punishing my imperfect execution?

Not criticizing, condemning or complaining is harder than you think. In fact, based on my observations over the last week, I suspect it may be our default behavior. It is going to take conscious effort, as well as substantial self-discipline to break the bad habit. If I’m honest with myself, I will probably be working at it for the rest of my life. What about you? Could you go a week without criticizing, condemning or complaining?

Before I conclude, a huge thanks to Dani Veras for the very apropos featured image. It nailed my feelings about the struggle to get through Principle 1. And now, for your quote of the day:

“Any fool can criticize, condemn or complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” —Dale Carnegie

I Took A Dale Carnegie Course And It Changed My Life

I Took A Dale Carnegie Course And It Changed My Life

Last Christmas, instead of buying me “stuff”, I asked my parents to send me to a Dale Carnegie in-person training. Dale Carnegie was an American writer and lecturer, who developed now world-famous courses on self-improvement, public speaking and interpersonal skills. His book How to Win Friends & Influence People is a top non-fiction best seller, ranking close to the Bible in number of copies sold since it was published in 1937.

While it makes sense to think his lessons have become outdated in our modern world, its teachings ring as true now as they did in the times of Dale Carnegie. They’re timeless, sure-fire stepping stones to becoming a more efficient leader, a better person. Every successful executive I know either consciously (or, subconsciously) practices the Dale Carnegie method.

I took and graduated from the three-day immersion course this past February. On day one, I had already picked up useful tips to improve my networking skills. For example, my instructor Joe taught me a trick for remembering people’s names (with a memorable name like Margarita and a terrible short-term memory, I used to depend on others to remember mine) and for engaging strangers in meaningful conversation. The remaining two days were no different. I learned how to add energy and clarity to my presentations, how to disagree agreeably, and other seemingly impossible feats I put to the test as soon as I was back to work.

All of my new skills were successful when applied to the “real world”. It was invigorating to watch them in action, especially those that improved my relationships at work. The training seriously changed my life. Unfortunately, in the time since, I have slowly but surely stopped applying the skills that I did not build into habit (i.e., 99% of them). I am determined to get them back and, lucky for me, I have my very own copy of How to Win Friends & Influence People to help.

Each chapter in Dale Carnegie’s book delves into one of his secrets of success. I am going to read one chapter every Monday morning for the next 30 weeks—there are 30 chapters—and actively apply the subject principle throughout the week. I look forward to sharing with you my successes, my failures, and my lessons learned in the process. The goal is to add on a new principle every week until I am actively applying all 30 principles, hopefully engraining them so I habitually use them forever.

Want to join along in my journey? You can pick up your very own copy of How to Win Friends & Influence People here. (Best $7 you’ll ever spend!) I could use a friend to keep me accountable and encourage me along the way. I promise to do the same for you, just leave a comment below or send me a tweet @margaritakwells to let me know you’re in.

Before we kick off Chapter One, “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”, I would like to thank my mom and dad for introducing me to the world of Dale Carnegie and leave you with the following quote of the day:

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” —Dale Carnegie