Dale Carnegie knew that sometimes people simply had to be challenged in order to motivate them. In his book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” he tells the story of when Governor Al Smith of New York needed to find a warden to run things at Sing Sing, the notorious penitentiary west of Devil’s Island.
Smith needed a strong man to run Sing Sing and sent for Lewis E. Lawes of New Hampton. “How about going up to take charge of Sing Sing?” he said jovially, when Lawes stood before him. “They need a man up there with experience.”
Lawes was stumped. He knew the dangers of Sing Sing prison, and the appointment was a political one, subject to political whims. Wardens had come and gone at Sing Sing—one only lasting three weeks. He had a career to consider. Was it worth the risk?
Smith saw his hesitation and smiled. “Young fellow,” he said, “I don’t blame you for being scared. It’s a tough spot. It’ll take a big man to go up there and stay.”
Smith threw down a challenge and Lawes liked the idea of attempting a job that called for a big man.
Lawes not only went on to take the warden’s job, he stayed and became the most famous warden alive. His book, “20,000 Years in Sing Sing,” sold into the hundreds of thousand of copies. He had broadcasts on the air, and his stories of prison life have inspired dozens of movies. Also, his “humanizing” of criminals brought about miracles in the way of prison reform.
Every person loves the chance for self-expression and the opportunity to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win. So if you want to win people to your way of thinking, when all else fails, throw down a challenge.
Here’s an example of this important principle in action from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of Atlanta:
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