The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead

{By Taylor Turner}

What is the one book you should read in 2015? 

As 2015 gets under way and schedules fill up with school and list of things to do, how can you start you year off right? What should you do at the beginning of another year of work, school, and life?

Sure there are list upon list of New Year’s resolutions that you can Google. But honestly, let’s admit it: by February, we stopped whatever we resolved to do; and by July, we forgot what we even resolved. Instead, what is something you can do right now that will impact your year for good and pay dividends in the years to come? Since time is arguably one of the most valuable commodities we have, something short and to the point that does not loose its depth or practicality should slide to the top of our list.

Let me introduce you to one of the most simple and yet most practical books: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Mr. Charles Murray.

book review the curmudgeons guide to getting ahead

Ok, I have to confess when I picked up this book I was unaware of curmudgeons – who they were and how they were dubbed with such a peculiar name. Basically, a curmudgeon is a surly or bad-tempered person. Typically portrayed as a grumpy old man, stuck somewhere in a previous era and unwilling to join the present century.

There is a sense of disdain toward curmudgeons especially in the younger generation. But as Mr. Murray alludes: if it were not for the curmudgeon personality, the work place and the culture at large would be much different.

Curmudgeons shape culture.

How so? Let us take a brief look at the curmudgeon’s “Do and Don’t” list. Murray’s salient categories are communication, presentation, and construction.

Communication is key.

In fact, Murray contends, “The process of writing is your most valuable single tool for developing better ideas. The process of writing is the dominant source of intellectual creativity.” And not only is your ability for creativity hindered (see “thinking outside the box”) but more rudimentary than that is your ability to interact with others with some level of effectiveness. Polishing your ability for communication “won’t necessarily push you up the ladder, but writing badly can keep you from rising.”

For example, the usage of “like” in your verbal communication is a pervasive habit and one that definitely still lingers in my communication. It is amazing how much we use it without even a second thought. If you do nothing else, make a conscious effort to rid the usage of “like” from . . . ya know . . . your like . . . life. In short, developing your communication skills cannot hurt you. But letting them hang on a rudimentary level is on the same level of cognitive reasoning as shooting yourself in the foot.

Presentation is important.

In conjunction with a stellar level of communication is presentation. Think “first impression” – as much as we may detest their impact, they do matter. Murray makes two astute observations about presentation that are worth mentioning: attire and attitude. Attire is what you would first think: appearance, clothing, and grooming. But attitude may not be what first comes to mind. Murray points out that an attitude of entitlement pervades our culture on a national and individual level. Entitlement programs from the government only create an exponential irritation of the individual problem. Leave any sense of entitlement at the door or better yet just purge it from your thinking. Presentation of yourself in both attire and attitude should never be overlooked due to their weight on a curmudgeon’s list.

Adulthood is an achievement. 

Finally, Charles Murray covers the importance of constructing one’s adult life or at the very least your development toward a self-sufficient, adult life. For starters, get a job. Not a fake job. A real job: one from which you can derive all the funds you need to move out and buy your own food (i.e. not an internship). Such an old-fashioned idea, I know; and yet, it is still one of the more defining steps you can make in the early years of your life. Watch Groundhog Day or read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Murray encourages both, although Groundhog Day teaches the same lesson with less time and mental effort, and the latter is almost a 400-page book which you may not have the time or stamina for.

If you read one book this year, it definitely should be The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead. With practical steps about adulthood and living a well-rounded life, this book isn’t just for the New Year, but one that you will find yourself coming back to over the years.

Get it. Read it. And learn.

What books are on your reading list for 2015? Comment below! 

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