Sydney J. Harris, The Man Who Put Cutting Edge Wisdom In a Nutshell
Sydney J. Harris, knows the meaning of good advice.
Sydney J. Harris is one of my favorite authors. I remember back in 1987 when I read a copy of his 1973 masterpiece, Winners & losers. This is a very thin book, consisting of only 119 pages that can be read in half an hour. It’s not the size of the book that matters; it’s the power of the words in that book that truly contributes to its greatness. Page by page, Winners & losers is just bursting with cutting edge wisdom. Each page contains a comparison of what makes up the mentality of a winner and that of a loser. For example, on the first page it says “A winners makes commitments; a loser makes promises.” I remember when I first read that; I was blown away. I really began to examine my own convections, and how shallow many of my so called “commitments” really were. Another example of the great wisdom contained in this wonderful book of maxims is on page twenty five, which states the following: “A winner listens; a loser just waits until it’s his turn to talk.” There you have it, the foundation of true communication in a nutshell. The book is divided into five sections of comparisons between the mindset of a winner vs. that of a loser. Each section of the book is filled with great maxims, comparing the habits of a winner with that of a loser. I personally rank this book with such masterpieces, as Dale Carnegie’s, How to Make Friends & Influence People and Steven Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Sydney J. Harris was born in London on 1917, his family came to America and he grew up in Chicago. He became a journalist and worked for the Chicago Daily News and The Chicago Sun Times. He had a column that was syndicated throughout the United States called “Strictly Personal.” Harris was a member of the Chicago Daily News’ editorial staff back in 1941, and began writing his famous column in 1944. For many years he was member of the usage panel for the American Heritage Dictionary. He was also a drama critic, teacher and lecturer, he received numerous honorary doctorates. His work even landed him on the list of Nixon’s political opponents.
Harris has written several other books besides Winner & losers, the titles of some of his other works include: Strictly Personal, Majority of One, Last Things First, On the Contrary, For the Time Being, Pieces of Eight, & Clearing the Ground. One of his best essays, “A Definition of a Jerk” truly demonstrates what an insightful individual Harris was. In this powerful essay, a jerk is truly described to a tee. In part of the essay Harris states the following: “A jerk, then, is a man (or woman) who is utterly unable to see himself as he appears to others. He has no grace, he is tactless without meaning to be, he is a bore even to his best friends, and he is an egotist without charm. All of us are egotists to some extent, but most of us--unlike the jerk--are perfectly and horribly aware of it when we make asses of ourselves. The jerk never knows.” Here, in the following statement, the reader is given even greater insight to the nature of a jerk “he is totally incapable of looking into the mirror of his soul and shuddering at what he sees there.” Harris is what you would call a modern day Solomon, whose insight, and cutting edge wit helps the reader to look deeper inside himself and examine his motives.
Harris, who married twice and fathered five children and died in 1986, leaving a legacy of wise maxims for the modern day seeker of wisdom. I, for one would recommend, Winners & losers to anyone, who is looking some good advice. It is a great book for students, homemakers, and professional alike. People from all walks could truly benefit from what I call “proverbs in a nutshell.”