J. Steve Miller
Current Work

page 2

"A Dogged Researcher" (9/19/07)

Steve Preparing for SeminarOne of the greatest compliments I ever received was when a reviewer called me "a dogged researcher." I appreciate great research. I detest dogmatic statements with no research to back them up. 

Great research establishes one's authority in a field. I'm sure that's the reason that my book, The Contemporary Christian Music Debate, was used in college classes. Surely this is the reason it's being being read in Dutch, German, Spanish, Romanian, and Russian. I researched in some depth some important issues that had, up to that point, been argued purely on the basis of anecdotes, personal experience, and the occasional reference to an obscure secondary source. 

Dale Carnegie's classic self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, often comes to mind as a nonfiction model. He establishes his authority in the preface:

"In preparation for this book, I read everything that I could find on the subject - everything from newspaper columns, magazine articles, records of the family courts, the writings of the old philosophers and the new psychologists. In addition, I hired a trained researcher to spend one and a half years in various libraries reading everything I had missed, plowing through erudite tomes on psychology, poring over hundreds of magazine articles, searching through hundreds of magazine articles, searching through countless biographies, trying to ascertain how the great leaders of all ages had dealt with people. We read their biographies. We read the life stories of all great leaders from Julius Caesar to Thomas Edison. I recall that we read over one hundred biographies of Theodore Roosevelt alone. We were determined to spare no time, no expense, to discover every practical idea that anyone had ever used throughout the ages for winning friends and influencing people." (pp. xv, xvi)

Doesn't it make you helplessly curious to find out what he discovered? Is it likely that anyone will ever match his research on the subject? Although Psychologists and Sociologists have added greatly to our understanding of relationships since the writing of the book, nobody has matched Carnegie's vast research into success people's lives. 

No wonder his book has sold, so far, over fifteen million copies. Although first  published way back in 1937, this publishing phenomenon still ranks, as I write,  #125 in Amazon sales, almost 70 years after its original publication! 

The second admirable quality of this book is its use of people stories. After learning so much about relationships, it must have been tempting to use all kinds of insider intellectual lingo to impress academics. Instead, he told story after story in a breezy, conversational style. Carnegie would later write:

“Readers of my books are soon aware of my use of the anecdote as a means of developing the main points of my message. The rules from How to Win Friends and Influence People can be listed on one and a half pages. The other two hundred and thirty pages of the book are filled with stories and illustrations to pint up how others have used these rules with wholesome effect.” (5)  

Thus, he advises speakers:

“The speaker should attempt to make only a few points and to illustrate them with concrete cases. Such a method of speech-building can hardly fail to get and hold attention.” (6)

I'm currently researching Benjamin Franklin's money habits. Fortunately, I was able last weekend to visit the fabulous Benjamin Franklin traveling exhibit at the Atlanta History Center, before it packed up and moved to Paris. The 8,000 square foot exhibition is the largest collection of original Franklin materials ever assembled, with over 240 original artifacts. As Pooh's friend Tigger would sing, "Fun, fun, fun, fun fun!"



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