Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for June 2014

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead

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coverI haven’t finished a book since February but I’ve finally finished The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray.  Murray is a conservative writer whose keen eye for the social realities of elite institutions and life reminds me a lot of David Brooks.  Even when I don’t agree with him I like the way he makes me think about the world I live in.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide is essentially a series of extended proverbs written by an unashamedly grumpy old white guy.  Over the years his missives went out to his workplace via an internal listserv and now they are collected into a brief book with four sections: workplace presentation; thinking and writing; how to live in your 20s; and what it means to be happy.

The workplace section is probably the most practical of the bunch and reenforces much of what I’ve seen and learned since I graduated from college.  His sage advice about the realities of cursing, dressing sloppily, sending poorly written office emails, sucking up, etc mirror my thoughts when I see these behaviors from students and (occasionally) colleagues.  I don’t say anything but it definitely shapes my opinion about whether or not they are professionals.  Murray is astute and honest enough to name these behaviors and say that these are real barriers to your success.

The writing and thinking section was brilliant, especially being unashamedly judgmental about sloppy writing.  As I’ve worked on a team preparing a report and a presentation over the last two weeks I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve implemented the rules so that the Committee will take us seriously.  I preach to my students constantly that they will be dismissed if they misuse fewer and less or use literally to mean figuratively.   Murray agrees and has lots of specific suggestions.

His last two sections on life advice also seem very wise to me.  Your 20s are a time to explore, form opinions and think about your career.  He tells it like it is with bracing advice like “get real jobs” and “confront your inner hothouse flower” (chortle).   Finally, his reflections on what makes the good life include advice about vocation, marriage and religion that isn’t heard very often in my circles.  Consider marrying in your 20s?  Take religion seriously?  This is good advice and it makes me thankful again for one of my favorite college professors whose mix of life advice and political science shaped who I am today.

The book is a perfect gift for an upperclassman or recent graduate who is either wandering or is dead set on a specific version of success.  I’m considering recommending it to my incoming graduate students as guide to the intangibles that our program won’t teach them as they focus on hard skills and policy thinking in their formal coursework.

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Written by furthermusings

June 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Posted in On the Job, Reviews

The Fellas at 6 Months

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The Fellas at 6 Months

Written by furthermusings

June 14, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Posted in At the House