I try to review only books that were published in english, but I got this one for cheap and did not notice its language constraints until after I read it. So I thought, whatever. If the book had an english title it would be something along “The Art of Being an Egotist”. Enjoy.
The phrase “egotist” is usually understood as an insult. Kirschner tries to put a positive spin on the word, defining it as a person who understands their own needs and capabilities and tries to gain maximum pleasure within this frame. This is an interesting parallel to the latest philosophical fad, modern stoicism. The difference is, that Kirschner does not prescribe a static ideal lifestyle to reach, but instead encourages the reader to evaluate and choose their goals. According to the author, everybody is an egotist anyway, but most people suppress their nature to please others. To the author, an egotist is taking responsibility for their actions and behaviors.
Kirschner wants us to evaluate what we do for ourselves versus what we do for others. Do we pursue the career we want, or the career others want us to have? Do we buy luxury goods because we want them for ourselves, or to impress other people? Do we really enjoy hanging out with friends or do we do it out of pity or guilt or just habit?
According to the book, the key to a happy life is to identify our personal needs, wants and principles, and then do everything to achieve them. This includes accepting all consequences arising from this pursuit. According to Kirschner, egotism by his definition is the only way to live truly independent and self-determined, and thus the only way to achieve happiness.
A major part of the book is about claiming your own “habitat”, a set of values, habits and attitudes that are important to you and that you protect from outside influence. Kirschner uses militant terminology when writing about the “attacks” others will wage to trespass the borders of your personal territory. The examples given do not lack cliché: the nagging wife, the needy mother-in-law, the greedy company and the petty bureaucrat all try and make a man do their bidding, but he simply won’t yield.
I am somewhat ambiguous about this. On the one hand it is great to have principles and to defend them against others. On the other hand the overly aggressive terminology and the stereotypes Kirschner presents may provoke overly offensive behavior. Rudeness entails rudeness, and may produce more problems than it solves.
This book was written in the seventies, when women could choose between homemaker or secretary, and men worked long hours of backbreaking labor or dull office assignments to provide for their families. It has not aged terribly well, to say the least. Particularly the job market has changed significantly, rendering many metaphors and examples of the book moot. The increasing automatization and technology use, the war for talents fought out between companies and the better acceptance of women in the labor force are factors that increase the individual independence of employees. However, many customer-hating time wasting bureaucracy hellholes have just transitioned to customer-hating private company hellholes (that are still timewasters), and marketing is more obnoxious than ever before. So maybe the book is still relevant after all? Maybe our personal habitats are under heavier attack than ever before?
Many self-help books want to teach you how to strive for more – more success, more friends, more pleasure. Others are about how to content with what you have, or even less. Kirschner represents the middle ground, enticing you to go after your own happiness without caring too much what others want you to do. Finding and following your personal life concept is a valuable advice, and still holds importance today. Other parts of the book are largely obsolete and may make your life more difficult. Read with some care.
I did not enjoy it a lot.
- Live for your own goals!
- Make yourself independent from the opinion of others.
- Other people will try to manipulate you for their own purposes.
- Have principles and life concepts and defend them.
Josef Kirschner was a journalist and TV host and authored several self-help books.