I wonder what David Bowie would have made of The Soulful Art of Persuasion?
I ask the question because Jason Harris opens his intriguing book with an unapologetic homage to the Thin White Duke himself, to show how originality and authenticity are at the heart of all persuasion. Which makes you also wonder whether the clichéd lightning bolt on the book’s cover would have made Ziggy Stardust’s crimson hair stand on end. But to judge this book by its cover would be a disservice, because from the opening pages it really does rock.
Full disclosure: I’m a friend of Jason’s (or was before I wrote the above), but when I first heard the book’s title I was skeptical, afraid this was another on a never-ending conveyor belt of self-serving self-help tomes. I’m still recovering from The 48 Laws of Power, which opened the millennium and set mankind back about as many years. It was pretty much on everyone’s desk at the time and 50 Cent (with whom I was working on a vitamin water campaign) had Robert Greene, the author, following him around and coaching him. But titles or subtitles with numbers in them now make me wary. 48 Laws. 4 Agreements. 11 Habits. It all sounds a bit mechanical to me. I mean, where is the humanity? The soul?
Well, in Jason’s case it’s everywhere in his book. To summarize his thesis without giving too much away is pretty simple: you don’t have to be an asshole liar to get ahead. Which is kind of refreshing these days. In fact, Jason proposes you try exactly the opposite. Just be you, be authentic, and you will succeed. This is something I wholeheartedly believe and practice. Jason’s book is definitely not another Thick Face, Black Heart. Thankfully.
The message is uplifting and positive. There is nothing heavy about Jason’s content or style. In fact, it’s a really fun read and super digestible. He describes the four components of a persuasive character: Original, Generous, Empathetic, and Soulful, each illustrated with a mixture of Jason’s personal experience and a wonderful range of stories that I really liked. From Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to Muhammad Ali to America’s most successful band, KISS. Which shows that you can be authentic, even when wearing a mask. Because as Jason puts it, success is all about the persuasive power of storytelling.
And that’s what makes this a worthwhile read. Jason spins a yarn in a way that you or I may not have thought of before. That’s where the real soul of this book lies. And that’s the kind of book this country could use today. The zeitgeist is changing. The old rules of the old superficial guard don’t work anymore, and in this new age personal character is more important than ever. You need authenticity and courage to lead and succeed in the changing workplace, and in any industry. I couldn’t agree more.
The Soulful Art of Persuasion really is a fascinating and unexpected book in which Jason Harris has proven to be a bit of a Rebel Rebel in the self-help world. Something I think Bowie would have appreciated.
Harry "Bee" Bernstein is the CCO of Havas New York and founder of Annex88.