The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don'ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life by Charles Murray

(New York: Crown, 2014), 142


On the Presentation of Self in the Workplace

  1. Don't suck up
  2. Don't use first names with people considerably older than yourself
    • It's a great pleasure when someone finally asks you to call them by their first name
  3. Don't say like
  4. Don't say cliche phrases, such as:
    • sharing
    • reaching out
    • be there for you
    • impact as a verb
    • interface except with machinery
    • brand and brinding
    • data as singular
    • drill down
  5. On the proper use of strong language (don't)
    • first, abstaining from strong language makes you look like an adult
    • second, it allows you to distinguish between the severity of your displeasure
    • third, it's a lot of fun to see the look on other people's faces when you actually do let loose
  6. Don't have piercings, tattoos, or weird hair color
  7. How to dress
    • take the cue from the senior people in your office
  8. Office emails are not texts
  9. What to do if you have a bad boss
    • "You can learn a lot about good management by working under someone who is bad manager."
  10. The unentitled shall inherit the earth
    • an unnamed CEO of a large corporation: "We don't even recruit at Harvard or Princeton anymore. We want kids from places like Southeastern Oklahoma State who have worked hard all their lives and share our values." (44)
  11. Manners at the office and in general
    • Teach your children to have impeccable manners as a means of schooling yourself
  12. Standing out isn't as hard as you think (I)
    • Work long hours and be competent
    • Remember that few people work nearly as hard as they could
  13. Standing out isn't as hard as you think (II)
    • thorough work and superior performance always stands out

On Thinking and Writing Well

  • "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." (55)
  1. Basic writing toolkit:
    • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White and then On Writing Well by Zinsser
    • Dictionary and Thesaurus: an exactly right word can transform a sentence
    • References on usage including:
      • Common Errors in English Usage by Paul Brians
      • Woe Is I and Words Fail Me by Patricia T. O'Conner
      • Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lyne Truss
      • Fowler's Modern English Usage
      • Chicago Manual of Style
    • Someone to imitate
  2. Usage primer: notes on a number of things to keep in mind
  3. Writing when you already know what you want to say
    • talk to yourself, constantly re-read and edit, edit hard copy, let it sit overnight
  4. Writing when you don't already know what you want to say
    • re-read to refine both your prose and your argument
  5. Don't wait for the muse
    • don't wait until you feel like it to write. Figure out when the best time for your is and force yourself to, even if you need to trick yourself into writing by editing.
  6. Learn to love rigor
    • You must want to be rigorous
    • Working for a rigorous crumudgeon boss is a good way to build a rigorous mindset

On the Formation of Who You Are

  • Or ways to make your 20's transformative...
  1. Don't let your parents prolong your adolescence (cf. The Vanishing American Adult)
  2. Recalibrate your perspective on time.
    • starting your career at 30 vs. 25 does not have much impact in the long run
    • being too eager overlooks the importance of apprenticeship for building expertise
  3. Get real jobs
    • "[unpaid] internships are affirmative action for the advantaged"
    • get a service job to wait on others rather than be waited upon
  4. Confront your inner hothouse flower
    • "stretch your elastic limit" by either joining the armed forces or living in a much different country for at least 3 years
  5. Think about what kinds of itches need scratching
    • finding your vocation and finding your soul mate
  6. Being judgmental is good
  7. Distinguish between can do and may do
    • be ok with the large range between legal and morally permissible
  8. Come to grips with being nice vs. being good
    • strive for virtue
  9. Don't ruin your love affair with yourself
    • see yourself as a good person and don't compromise that

On the Pursuit of Happiness

  1. Show up
    • show up to family, vocation, community, and faith
    • "You are not going to reach old age satisfied with who you have been and what you have done because you interfaced with a screen." (125)
  2. Take the clichés about fame and fortune seriously
    • fame and wealth are trivial to a life well-lived
  3. Take religion seriously
    • taking religion seriously means homework and study
    • "a good way to jar yourself out of unreflective atheism is to read about contemporary science": the 20th century did wonders
    • "the more you are around people who are seriously religious, the harder it is to think there's nothing to it"
  4. Take the clichés about marriage seriously
    • marry someone with similar tastes and preferences
    • what you see is what you're going to get
    • you must really really like your spouse
    • a good marriage is the best thing that can ever happen to you
  5. Be open to a startup marriage instead of a merger marriage
  6. Watch Groundhog Day repeatedly
    • You should read and reflect on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, but since you won't, you should watch Groundhog Day to learn what it means to be happy