Saturday, March 7, 2009

Winning Through Intimidation

Winning Through Intimidation

No - this book won't teach you how to act like an asshole to get what you want. But it does talk a lot of how you can get screwed by assholes if you think the world is a nice place, that being nice will get you ahead, and that other people will put you first before themselves, and your interests first. This book however does tell you a lot about how people in the real world operate, what their priorities are, what your goal should be, how to recognize these people, how to counter-act and win against them.

At first glance it may appear that the book is essentially negative in tone and outlook. After all, it tells you that people are basically rotten at the core, will screw you to get ahead, and do so with no compunctions. I.e., these people are the intimidators. You are the intimidatee. That the only way to counter this to become an intimidator yourself. To get the advantage you need by dressing right, by acting like you know it, and by impressing people into submission. Shock-and-awe. That's not really the kind of message that we need to learn, right? Given so much negativity and cynicism around so do we really need a book to reinforce this?
But look at the other side also. The author says that this is reality. He insists that this is the real world, and if we ignore this reality, we do so at our own peril. We may not like it, we may not accept it, and we do not need to respond to it, but we do so at considerable risk to our financial and emotional well-being. If you want to talk the talk, you had better be prepared to walk it too. The author also makes it clear that you do need to follow up on the dressing and the talking with action. You need to put in the hard work to be prepared. And mostly, the author tries to put it across to the reader that you need to be paid for your efforts. Attaboy, great job, well done, you're a star, amazing - hype is fine, but it doesn't pay the bills. If you work, make sure you get paid. There's nothing wrong in that. The book's tone may appear negative, but the message, I believe, I submit to you, is essentially positive.
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett (November 12, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449207862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449207864
The earlier chapters are by far the most enjoyable and educational. Each of the author's learning experiences is presented in the form of a lesson taught by a 'professor' at a school, 'Screw U.'. Yes.
...the bottom line was getting paid. ... Closing deals is not the name of the game; it's only a means to an end. One's exit strategy must be focused on walking away with chips in one's hand. In every area of life-whether business or personal-getting paid is the bottom line.
How do you intimidate? Why do you intimidate? The answer to the second question is easy. To win. Mostly it is about winning money. If you treat the game as a zero-sum game, wherein if the other guy gets ten rupees, it means ten rupees less for you, then it is clear that you have to win to make sure those ten rupees land in your wallet and not his. Where it is not about money you are dealing with psychopaths and sociopaths, and that is not the purpose of the book - to teach you how to deal with socially maladjusted psychos. As for the first question, the answer is you intimidate by pretending to have an attribute of superiority over your opponent.
At the top of the list of master intimidators disguised as (self anointed) saints are chest-pounding critics, syndicated columnists, and TV commentators, ever on the alert for an opportunity to seize the moral high ground. [page 2]
Judging from the way most people talk and act, one is led to wonder if a resistance to reality is genetically programmed into a majority of the human species. [page 4]
Work is not its own reward, the author is quick to point out. Nor is it enough to have the belief that if you work, all good things shall come to you. No. That rarely happens.
Like millions of other people, I, too, fell into the trap of believing that my great reward would ultimately come if I just focused on working hard and displaying a positive mental attitude. [page 7]
I myself had a masochistic tendency to focus on the other person,s best interest, particularly in business dealings, naively clinging to the belief that my benevolent attitude would be appreciated and that I would be handsomely rewarded. [page 17]
If winning is so important, why hasn't the market seen a zillion books on the topic. Books that actually work.
I concluded that there were a number of reasons why successful people, as well as authors of many self-help books, tend to espouse unworkable solutions. These include, among others:
1. Success has a tendency to breed self-righteousness, [page 8, 9]
3. Finally, many authors of business, self-help, and motivation books deliberately withhold, for commercial reasons, the realities of what it takes to succeed. It's much easier, and far more popular, to sell success myths...
If someone cheats you, is he being dishonest? Per the author, honesty and dishonesty are RELATIVE.
I now understood that a person could only be honest or dishonest relative to the facts in a given situation, or relative to some individual's personal moral standards. [page 19]
Note that I did not say that honesty is not relevant, but that a discussion of honesty is not relevant. [page 21]
I had long before concluded that all members of the Discouragement Fraternity had two things in common: (1) Because they were insecure, they feared competition, and (2) they were ferocious about protecting their turf.
Battles are for ego-trippers; wars are for money-grippers. [page 27]
When it comes to winning, usually the person who is the best equipped to win shall win. That may mean the person who is the most knowledgeable, or the most skilled. Right? Yes, sort of. Because, as the author contends, people will often pretend to be something they aren't. Like being knowledgable. But what they will have, and use to maximize their advantage in the battle of winning, is the ability to pretend that they have these skills. Learn to recognize that.
Don't allow yourself to be intimidated by someone else's knowledge-or apparent knowledge. [page 35]
Think about it for a moment. Everyone wants to position themselves such that they can extract the best possible deal for themselves. A student does the same during a placement interview. A recruiter does the same, when speaking to a company or to a prospective employee. A broker will do the same. When he speaks with the owner he will profess an absolute paucity of prospective tenants, finding a hundred faults with your property, its location, its amenities, the rent the owner expects. When speaking with a prospective tenant he will mention half a dozen tenants waiting to move into the property tomorrow and at a higher rental than what you are asking for. Advertisers do the same for their clients. An investment firm will commission those ads that make it appear that they are as fond of you as your grandmother, are as doting, and as eager to make sure you can retire into that golden sunset that you have always dreamed of. What they will rarely say is that they want your money, all of it, at any cost, legal or what they can get away with, and will lie, deceive, flatter, cajole, obfuscate, intimidate, and in general do whatever it takes for you to part with your money. Your interests and goals - what you want and need - are secondary. The suits they wear are meant to convey authority. The glistening buildings with the Italian marble flooring is meant to indicate they are well enough without your money, thank you, so you are doing yourself a favour by writing them a check. The titles - vice president, super president, head of global investor screwups, and what not - are meant to convey that the bank values you soooo very very much that they will not have any nobody talk to you because they respect and value you sooo very much. But more on banks later.

This below is the title of a chapter. Yes. Really. Basically, there are people who say they are going to screw you. And do. Then there are those who will screw you, but won't tell that at the outset, but will screw you anyways. And then there are the third type:
Type number three is sincerely sorry that he grabbed your chips, but the result is just the same as if he were glad [page 40]
The second type are the most dangerous, so to say. The ones who say they are saints, but turn out to be satan. "Devil in disguise", as Elvis once sang.
...spent an inordinate amount of time expounding on the virtues of dealing only with people who possessed buckets of integrity and the highest ethical standards-like himself, for example-an almost sure sign that the person with whom you are speaking is a rapist, murderer, or/ worst of all, an unethical real estate developer. [page 64]
One of the most important weapons that all wealthy people have at their disposal is staying power.
... under the circumstances, he would be leaving for the airport right away to try to catch an earlier flight back to New York. It was an eye-opening experience to witness a professional intimidator in action.
It was painful to witness sort of like watching a lion devour a gazelle on one of those animal shows on TV-but very educational. [page 58, 59, 60]
Interesting that the author states that there seems to be an inverse relationship between how much a person professes to be a saint and how much he is actually an honest person. I read this in Bob Sutton's blog today:
My hypothesis is that the longer a code of ethics in a company, the more likely they are too be sleazeballs. As I've heard my father-in-law say many times, when people talk about ethics and morals more than seems necessary, his impulse is hide the good silverware. [The Enron Code of Ethics: Something Every Boss Should Read]
How do you succeed? By sheer dint of work. Right? Well... maybe. But know that most successful people don't really become successful that way. There are exceptions. Yes. But these are exceptions. Which is why they are exceptions. Not the rule.
If one aspires to great accomplishments/ he must recognize that the quickest way to the top is not by fighting his way through the pack, but by leapfrogging over it.
[page 87]
Image is everything. Style over substance.
It's not what you say or do that counts, but what your posture is when you say or do it. [page 89]
Do you really care what people think about you? Because if you do, then be prepared for penury. The author says you can either be liked and be a johnny-do-gooder who will be liked, yes, but not respected, and certainly not rich. Because you will be trampled all over by the 'intimidators' who will walk all over you, or worse and more likely, devour you like a hyena that chases down a deer and eats it, bones, skin, meat, all. Except in real life, you will suffer deaths-by-hyenas again and again. Ewww.
Being liked was not much of a reward for being poor and disrespected. By the same token, money and respect were more than enough consolation for having a pack of insecure neurotics dislike me. [page 93]

In every area of life-whether business or personal-getting paid is the bottom line. If you think this applies only to real estate brokerage, you missed the book. In that event/ return to page one immediately and start reading again-slowly this time. [page 223]
Several chapters, starting with Ch 10, "Using Posture to Get the Ball", essentially describe, in some detail, how the author used his learnings from 'Screw U.' to be the 'intimidator', and make a tidy pile of money in the real-estate business. The metaphor used is football, American Football, so phrases like outfield, midfield, touchdown, etc... are liberally sprinkled. Sort of similar to football, but not quite. Real estate dealings are described in detail, so it may or may not interest you that much. If you plod through the chapters, handle the non-stop self-adulatory back-slapping, and the decidedly 1970s cartoons, you may be able to abstract out lessons to apply in other situations. You will notice that a lot of the lessons have to deal with being prepared, doing your homework, and other old-fashioned principles involving hard work. Pity, no magic mantra, astra, or silver bullet here.
In every area of life-whether business or personal-getting paid is the bottom line. If you think this applies only to real estate brokerage, you missed the book. In that event/ return to page one immediately and start reading again-slowly this time. [page 223]
The book is a quarter century old. That it is still mostly relevant is a huge credit to the book.

On the topic of people who can be defined more by the size of their posterior cavities, the first book in the list below is one of my favourites, while the second book is an excellent primer on understanding how other people get you to do what they want, and how to recognize those signs. There are likely many more books that could be added to the list, but it is a sign of my abject literary ignorance that I do not know about those books. Maybe what I should do is search the web for a list of books that sound authoritative, and list them here. That would make me appear more knowledgeable. And thereby place me in a position to intimidate others.
Because, consider this. Most people would not have read most of the books listed on the page. Yet they will not admit that. Yet will act like they have, and therefore are far more erudite than you. So if you list books that you have read, and not those that you want others to believe you have, then your list is almost always going to be shorter than the other guy's list.