Book Reviews

In some recent downtime, I had the opportunity to unwind and catch up on some reading.

I was greatly motivated by two of those books and how they might relate to a career in cybersecurity, so I thought I would share my thoughts and comparisons after reading both of them:

 

Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People


Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

While somewhat similar in concept, they do vary in both time and approach. Both books are considered ‘self-help’ or ‘business management’ books and they both broadly address developing yourself and your ability to interact with others. They also address key skills that I found could be incredibly relatable in the field of cybersecurity, regardless of where you are or what you do. In fact, the more technical you are at your job, the more these books could help you stand out and grow in your field. 

Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People

Carnegie

Not to be confused with Andrew Carnegie, the self-made billionaire, Dale Carnegie was born into poverty on a farm in Missouri. He later grew into one of American’s greatest self-help authors in the 1930’s. His book How to Win Friends and Influence Peoplewas originally published in 1936, but his messaging has withstood the test of time and is still actively published, read, and appreciated today. In fact, many of the concepts he helped develop still drive concepts behind many training courses all over the world. 

At first, a book that is approaching 100 years old would appear to be outdated and un-applicable in today’s fast-paced, digital age. Many of the examples in the book seem quaint or historical, referencing famous individuals like Charles Schwab or Theodore Roosevelt. But to be honest, I lovedthat historical perspective. This book is all about people, how people fundamentally think, and how they operate. And honestly, at its core, that has not changed in hundreds, if not thousands of years. (To really get that vibe of how people have not changed, consider reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, Roman Emperor A.D. 161-180). 

What I love about Dale Carnegie’s writing is that he’s down to earth, his messaging is simple to read, and his concepts are immediately applicable. While at times, some of the suggestions seem a bit off in today’s world, many of the other insights and suggestions he presented were quite valuable. Dale focuses on how to interact with others, breaking his book down into four categories with specific suggestions in each category, making a total of 30 points (such as “You Can’t Win an Argument” or “Share Your Own Mistakes”). I personally think 30 points is a bit overwhelming, and some of them seemed to be repetitive. What I ended up doing is writing down the points I found most valuable / useful for me, creating a so-called personal ‘checklist’. My plan is to then go back and re-review those key points periodically. 

Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

7 habits

Everyone knows this book, right? Covey published his infamous book in 1989 and over 25 million copies have been sold. Many people consider this to be one of the mostinfluential business management books to date. 

Much like Dale Carnegie’s ideas, Covey’s concepts have grown into training programs around the world. However, while Carnegie’s approach focuses on how to deal with others, Stephens approach is far more inward facing and depicts how to deal with yourself. How you perceive, direct, and manage yourself impacts how you interact with people on the outside. 

The book is based on seven principles, with each principle building on the previous one:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize!
  7. Sharpen the saw

(For a more detailed description of each of the seven principles, here is a great summary.) 

While Dale Carnegie’s book only spends a couple of pages on each of his 30 concepts, Covey does a deep dive into each of his seven principles. He explains the theory and research behind each principle, while providing numerous stories to exemplify each principle, and specific action items for you to take to apply each of the seven principles. I found Covey’s message much deeper. It took a greater time to ingest and apply, which I think likely drive a longer-term impact. I’ll probably end up having to read this book again almost every year to keep me motivated.

Both books are fantastic reads and I highly recommend them. I would suggest starting with Dale’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People first, as it introduces you to many of the concepts. After that, follow up with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as it does the deeper dive. 

Human skills (or lack thereof) continue to be a growing challenge for us in the cybersecurity world. It creates roadblocks not only with how we interact with other security professionals but people in general, but also with how we articulate cybersecurity and security awareness leadership. In a world of technical skills, having strong interpersonal and skills is a powerful way to stand out and truly grow your reputation and career.