Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm not you friend, I'm your....

I had to shake my head over a recent Hariette Cole column in the Trib. A parent writes in, concerned that her son will have trouble making friends when he goes to the University of Michigan because it's so much larger than the prep school he's been attending. First, I got my law degree from the University of Michigan, so I know a thing or two about the place, and believe me that no preppy is going to have any trouble finding his own kind there. Cole misses that obvious point, though, and instead advises that the boy should read Dale Carnegie's How to Make Friends and Influence People. I'm going to get into trouble here, but I've always considered that book to be grossly mislabeled. It isn't about making friends; it's about making sales, about building networks of acquaintances you can market to. It may help the boy perfect his pitch, but it won't help him create college memories and friendships he'll pack with him through the decades.

If you're in business, you have to remember that you have friends, and you have customers. There will be some overlap, but you should never confuse the two. Because if everybody's your friend, you're not going to make a living. There's a great bit in Bonfire of the Vanities where an attorney explains the difference to a client. Read the book, and not just for that.

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