Book Review: Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams

Scott Adams, aka “the Dilbert guy,” has realized that the reality you experience is not really the reality that exists, and he thinks you should know. That’s why in 2013 he wrote one of the best self-help books ever written, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

In How to Fail . . ., Adams focused on ways you can trick yourself into behaving smarter, failing in ways that will move you ahead, and developing a “talent stack” where each skill you learn creates a combination greater than the sum of its parts. And a huge focus on this was the concept of persuasion.

Adams is a trained hypnotist and well-versed in the art of persuasion. This is why when Donald Trump announced his campaign to run for President of the United States in the summer of 2015, Adams took notice and started blogging about politics.

Sort of.

What got Adams’ attention was Trump’s powers of persuasion. Far from seeing Trump as a buffoon randomly stumbling from gaffe to gaffe and succeeding by accident, Adams saw a deliberate set of moves designed to win the presidency. And Adams makes a compelling case.

Weathering the storm of being called a Nazi and a racist, the loss of friends, and his blacklisting from the lucrative speaking-tour circuit, Adams was one of the few pundits to predict that Trump would win. Mind you, Adams’ excellent blog was focused solely on Trump’s powers of persuasion.

And then a funny thing happened: Adams, a politically homeless man who generally leans pretty left on social issues, kind of started to like the guy.

In Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World where Facts Don’t Matter, Adams talks about Trump and his persuasion skills (he refers to Trump as a “Master Persuader”), walking you step-by-step through what Adams saw during the presidential campaign, how Trump out-persuaded his Republican rivals and the eventual Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton . . . until Clinton got her own persuasion game in full swing.

Yes, Adams comes off as a Trump fanboy, despite his best efforts to appear as impartial as possible (he claims he does not vote in order to remain unbiased . . . he also has a chapter devoted to Trump’s mistakes). If even the thought of Donald Trump makes you want to puke, this book is not for you. Which is a shame, since Win Bigly is the mirror image of How to Fail . . . The latter book focuses on persuading yourself; Win BIgly focuses on persuading others. In fact, Part 4 of Win Bigly is called “How to Use Persuasion in Business and Politics.” Sounds useful, right?

Win Bigly is as much a persuasion-focused chronicle of the 2016 presidential election as it is a primer–albeit a brisk one–about how to use persuasion techniques, including those deployed by Trump, to make your own communications as persuasive as possible.

So “a world where facts don’t matter” . . . provocative, isn’t it? And I suppose that’s persuasion, too. But Adams has a point that’s pretty easily proven just by observing the world around you, watching cable news, or picking up a newspaper (if you’re one of the six people left in America who does that).

Human beings think that we operate and make decisions on 90% reason and logic and 10% emotion. But this ratio is really the other way around. As the Dunning-Kruger effect posits, we all think we’re smarter than we really are. And so we live in a world of illusion. Continue reading “Book Review: Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams”

Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich

donald-trump-president-person-of-year-time-magazine-2-facebook

You can't get away from Donald Trump. He's the President. As with Barack Obama, Trump has those who worship his every move and those who hate his stinking guts.

But I am not here to praise him nor to bury him. No, I'm not even here to talk politics.

I'm here to talk books.

Regardless of your personal feelings, Trump is President. And it's always interesting, at least to me, to learn about our elected officials and see what makes them tick. Because, to be honest, one has to be a little touched in the head to want to go into politics. And so, I read (actually, listened) to two books about the man, one that painted him in a distinctly negative light, and another that was far more flattering.

Let's face it: Whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump is an interesting cat. And he did beat both a veritable army of GOP insiders and the most favored candidate in American history, to win the election.

[Full disclosure: I voted for the guy. Mainly because, as a reluctant Republican, I have grown so disgusted with the party as I have with the Democrats, and Washington in general, that I relished the idea of sending a giant, human middle finger to the entire establishment. Regardless, one does have to admire his ability to accomplish what he sets out to do, even if you dislike him politically or personally. I felt much the same about Barack Obama (whom I did not vote for, twice–but still, the man knows how to accomplish what he wants and is also an interesting guy. There's a lesson there for all of us.)]

First up, the more "negative" book, Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success by author and journalist Michael D'Antonio, published in 2015. I know that in 2016 D'Antonio updated the book and re-christened it The Truth About Trump, but I listened to the audio version, borrowed by my wife from our local library for me to listen to during my many long car trips between the D.C. Metro area and New England I had to make in the recent past.

Reviews of this book call it “A carefully reported and fair-minded account" (USA Today), “A brisk and entertaining read, drawing on interviews and documents and distilling decades' worth of news coverage to tell the story of Trump's childhood, family, business deals, and political forays” (The Washington Post), and "Balanced, well sourced, and perfectly timed" (Financial Times (UK)). Me, I find these claims of balance and a lack of bias laughable.

Let's get it out of the way: D'Antonio clearly does not like Trump. That said, the book is meticulously researched, well-written and constructed, and sheds a lot of light on Trump and what makes him tick.

Trump's family history is pretty fascinating, with his hellraising and, quite frankly, dishonest and kind of sleazy grandfather (who first built, and then lost, the family fortune), to his father Fred who, through hard work and good timing, nearly single-handedly rebuild the family fortune, to Donald himself, the story of the Trumps is one of sheer determination and will. No one will tell ANY of these men that they cannot do something, and they all have a knack for sniffing out an opportunity and exploiting it . . . even if that involves some unsavory steps along the way.

Michaelauthorphoto

What D'Antonio discusses definitely raises some red flags (and sensationally hints at far more sinister doings without much in the way of evidence, but I digress) about Trump's temperament and proclivities–his penchant for stretching the truth, if not outright lying; his habit of bending the rules to benefit himself and his family, if not outright breaking them; insinuating that he is a virulent racist and anti-Semite with no real proof; his cozy relationship with corrupt attorney Roy Cohn . . . but was it enough to make me pull the lever for his opponent? Absolutely not. For all of his vices–greed, arrogance, women, and a pathological inability to not fight back seem to be Donald's vices–to me at least, Hillary Clinton was far worse.

And yet, through it all, Trump comes across as an enthusiastic builder with an almost childlike sense of wonder about everything. One can imagine him looking at a building he fought tooth-and-nail to get built and being like, "Holy cow, can you believe it?" He clearly also believed in his designers and architects, going to the mat for many of them. And he, obviously, believes in himself.

He also tends to, let's say, exaggerate his accomplishments and disparage those of his opponents with stereotypical New York bravado. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich”