Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to Be Useful: A Beginner's Guide to Not Hating Work

by Megan Hustad
There are plenty of books out there that encourage people to shed the corporate chains and find more creative, outside-the-box, "authentic" ways to make a living. Isn't it time you stopped compromising, and stayed true to yourself? Good advice, in an ideal world, perhaps, but a lot of us find ourselves headed in the other direction. What about those of us who have already embraced our creative sides, but now need to buckle down and work, at least for a while, in the corporate world?

Hustad admits right away that most of the "creative and sensitive" souls she knows would never deign to pick up a "success book," such as How to Win Friends and Influence People, or The 7 Habits of Successful People, except maybe in secret. But, truth be told, there are some very good nuggets of wisdom from many of these books, and Hustad worries that her artistic friends may be shunning good advice at their own peril. Hustad does the work for us, pouring over a hundred years of success literature to find the good bits, advice that works today as well as it did in 1901. Some of her findings are counterintuitive; the first section, which draws on Andrew Carnegie, claims that to "just be yourself" is not always helpful. And another chapter concerns the right way, and the wrong way, to be self-deprecating.

Hustad's blend of history and advice, both timeless and topical, is a pleasure to read, and I can already feel myself becoming more useful.

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