Aug 31, 2018

Inside the Mind of President Trump

To get inside the mind of our president, I read The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale and will be reading Trump: The Art of the Deal
. As I read, I am adding quotes here that are relevant to my intent, so check back if the page isn't yet complete.
To any anti-Trumpers who may arrive here: If you find yourself interested but conflicted, remember the words of expert negotiator and Harvard professor Robert Mnookin: "Empathy does not require sympathy. Empathizing with someone does not mean agreeing with, or even necessarily liking, the other side."
The Power of Positive Thinking
President Trump was heavily influenced by the thinking of Pastor Norman Vincent Peale. As a child, he attended the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, where Peale was the senior minister. Pastor Peale also officiated at Trump's first marriage to Ivana in 1977. When asked about his religious background during the 2016 campaign, Trump frequently mentioned Peale.
Pastor Peale originally published the The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952. It was updated several times and has sold more than five million copies worldwide. Below is a selection of quotes from the book.
  • "This book is written with the sole objective of helping the reader achieve a happy, satisfying and worthwhile life." (from the back cover)
  • "If in our thoughts we constantly fix attention upon sinister expectations of dire events that might happen, the result will be constantly to feel insecure. And what is even more serious is the tendency to create, by the power of thought, the very condition we fear."
  • "[Dr. Karl Menninger] said, 'Attitudes are more important than facts.' That is worth repeating until it grips you … a confident and optimistic thought pattern can modify or overcome the fact altogether."
  • "Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously … Never think of yourself as failing; never doubt the reality of the mental image … Always picture ‘success’ no matter how badly things seem to be going."
Many have wondered how President Trump has so much energy at his advanced age. Pastor Peale's philosophy may help explain it:
  • "By supplying attitudes of faith to the mind it can increase energy. It helps you to accomplish prodigious activity by suggesting that you have ample support and resources of power."
  • "[I]n our consciousness we can tap a reservoir of boundless power as a result of which it is not necessary to suffer depletion of energy."
  • "Every great personality I have ever known … has been a person in tune with the Infinite … They have not necessarily been pious people, but invariably they have been extraordinarily well organized from an emotional and psychological point of view."
  • "The longer I live, the more I am convinced that neither age nor circumstance needs to deprive us of energy and vitality … Our physical condition is determined very largely by our emotional condition, and our emotional life is profoundly regulated by our thought life."
President Trump is famous for declaring things are "the best" and expecting that to be true. Pastor Peale had some things to say about that:
  • "When you expect the best, you release a magnetic force in your mind which by a law of traction tends to bring the best to you. But if you expect the worst, you release from your mind the power of repulsion which tends to force the best from you."
  • "It is amazing how a sustained expectation of the best sets in motion forces which cause the best to materialize."
How has President Trump stayed so confident even when success seemed unlikely? Pastor Peale's advice may be the reason:
  • "Please say the following line aloud: 'I don’t believe in defeat.' Continue to affirm that until the idea dominates your subconscious attitudes."
Of course, Pastor Peale had a lot more to say about positive thinking:
  • "Think positively … and you set in motion positive forces which bring positive results to pass."
  • "[F]orm a picture in your mind of circumstances as they should be. Hold that picture, developing it firmly in all details, believe in it, pray about it, work at it, and you can actualize it according to that mental image emphasized in your positive thinking."
  • "If you think in negative terms you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms you will achieve positive results. This is the simple fact which is the basis of an astonishing law of prosperity and success. In three words: believe and succeed."
  • "Keep the idea of prosperity, of achievement, and of attainment firmly fixed in your mind. Never entertain a failure thought. Should a negative thought of defeat come into your mind, expel it by increasing the positive affirmation."
  • "You can make just about anything of your life — anything you will believe or will visualize, anything you will pray for and work for. Look deeply into your mind. Amazing wonders are there."
That was the last quote from the book that struck me as relevant to understanding President Trump. There is much more to the book and many things I appreciated personally and from a Christian perspective — but that's a post for another time.
Visit Amazon to get your copy of The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.
The Art of the Deal
This is the famous book Trump published in 1987. The very first thing I noticed was the cover quote: "Trump makes one believe for a moment in the American dream again." Its source? The (Failing) New York Times! How things have changed ...
Below is all the quotes from the book that grabbed my attention.
Philosophy & Personality
  • “I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is. And if it can’t be fun, what’s the point?”
  • “I like thinking big. I always have ... Most people think small, because most people are afraid of success, afraid of making decisions, afraid of winning. And that gives people like me a great advantage.”
  • “It’s been said that I believe in the power of positive thinking. In fact, I believe in the power of negative thinking ... I always go into the deal anticipating the worst. If you plan for the worst — if you can live with the worst — the good will always take care of itself.”
  • “I play to people‘s fantasies ... People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”
  • “There are people — I categorize them as life’s losers — who get their sense of accomplishment and achievement from trying to stop others. As far as I’m concerned, if they had any real ability they wouldn’t be fighting me, they’d be doing something constructive themselves.”
  • “The most important influence on me, growing up, was my father ... I got some of my sense of showmanship from my mother … My mother loves splendor and magnificence, while my father, who is very down-to-earth, gets excited only by competence and efficiency.”
  • “Even in elementary school, I was a very assertive, aggressive kid ... I actually gave a teacher a black eye — I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music… I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinion known in a very forceful way.”
  • “I was always something of a leader in my neighborhood. Much the way it is today, people either liked me a lot, or they didn’t like me at all. I liked to stir things up, and I liked to test people.”
  • “[I]n 1964 I flirted briefly with the idea of attending film school at the University of Southern California. I was attracted to the glamour of the movies, and I admired guys like Sam Goldwyn, Darryl Zanuck, and most of all Louis B. Mayer, whom I considered great showmen.”
  • “[I]t’s a mistake to be lulled by good times. Markets always change.”
  • Victor Palmieri: “Trump ... He’s almost a throwback to the nineteenth century as a promoter. He’s larger than life.” I was relentless, even in the face of the total lack of encouragement, because much more often than you’d think, sheer persistence is the difference between success and failure.”

  • “A guy named Arthur Drexler, from the Museum of Modern Art, put it very well when he said, ‘Skyscrapers are machines for making money.’ Drexler meant it as a criticism. I saw it as an incentive.”
  • “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war. What you need, generally, is enough time and a little luck.”
  • “When it comes to making a smart decision, the most distinguished planning committee working with the highest-priced consultants doesn’t hold a candle to a group of guys with a reasonable amount of common sense and their own money on the line.”
  • “I said at the start that I do it to do it. But in the end, you’re measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish.”
  • “[W]hat I admire most are people who put themselves directly on the line ... I’ve never been terribly interested in why people give ... To me, what matters is the doing.”
  • “[T]here are two things I’ve found I’m very good at: overcoming obstacles & motivating good people to do their best work. One of the challenges ahead is how to use those skills as successfully in the service of others as I’ve done ... on my own behalf.”

  • Deals & Negotiating
    • “I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
    • About backing out of a deal to buy an oil company that ended up saving Trump from a $50 million loss: “That experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper ... The second is that you are generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.”
    • “My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing ... More than anything else, I think deal-making is an ability you’re born with. It’s in the genes ... it’s about instincts.”
    • “I never get too attached to one deal or one approach… In addition, once I’ve made a deal, I always come up with at least a half dozen approaches to making it work, because anything can happen, even to the best-laid plans.”
    • “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead. The best thing you can do is deal from strength.”
    • “[I]f you’re going to make a deal of any significance, have to go to the top. It comes down to the fact that everyone underneath the top guy in a company is just an employee. An employee isn’t going to fight for your deal. He’s fighting for his salary increase, or ... bonus.”
    • “[When negotiating] You’re better off dealing with a total killer with real passion. When he says no, sometimes you can talk him out of it. You rant and you rave, and he rants and raves back, and you end up making a deal.”
    • “[Barron Hilton] is not the kind of guy who makes impulsive decisions, so I played it very low-key [and he] felt very comfortable with me. There are times when you have to be aggressive, but there are also times when your best strategy is to lie back.”
    • “As hard as I push, in the end I’m practical. If it took making some compromises to get the project moving forward ... I was prepared to make the changes.”
    Managing People
    • “I enjoy seeing the lengths to which bad managements go to preserve what they call their independence — which really just means the jobs.”
    • “[He] was the kind of guy who worked perhaps an hour a day and accomplished more in that hour than most managers did in twelve hours. I learned something from that: it’s not how many hours you put in, it’s what you get done while you’re working.”
    • “I have a very simple rule when it comes to management: Hire the best people from your competitors, pay them more than they were earning, and give them bonuses and incentives based on their performance. That’s how to build a first-class operation.”
    Fighting Back
    • “[T]he fact is that if you’re right, you’ve got to take a stand, or people walk all over you.”
    • “My people keep telling me I shouldn’t write [rebuttal] letters ... to critics. The way I see it, critics get to say what they want to about my work, so why shouldn’t I be able to say what I want to about theirs?”
    • “[W]hen people treat me badly or unfairly or try to take advantage of me, my general attitude, all my life, has been to fight back very hard. The risk is that you’ll make a bad situation worse, and I certainly don’t recommend this approach to everyone … But my experience is that if you’re fighting for something you believe in, even if it means alienating some people along the way, things usually work out for the best in the end.”
    • “You can’t be scared. You do your thing, you hold your ground, you stand up tall, and whatever happens, happens.”
    • “It was at Le Club that I first met Roy Cohn ... I said to him, ‘I don’t like lawyers ... they are always looking to settle instead of fight ... I’m just not built that way. I’d rather fight than fold, because as soon as you fold once, you get the reputation of being a folder.’”
    • “I worried about the growing opposition, but publicly my posture was to take the offensive and concede nothing to my critics.”
    • “I’m not saying I would also have won, but if I went down, it would’ve been kicking and screaming ... That’s just my makeup. I fight when I feel I’m getting screwed, even if it’s costly and difficult and highly risky.”
    • “I’m not one ... to roll over to avoid bad publicity or save a few bucks — particularly when I think the charges are unfair. Fighting back might run up my legal bills and even make me rethink my strategy. [But I won’t] ... be blackmailed into a ridiculous settlement.”
    The Media
    • “One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better… if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.”
    • “I’m not saying that they [the press] necessarily like me ... The funny thing is that even a critical story, which may be hurtful personally, can be very valuable to your business.”
    • “Ironically, the whole controversy may have ended up being a plus for me in terms of selling Trump Tower. The stories that appeared about it invariably started with sentences like: ‘In order to make way for one of the world’s most luxurious buildings ... ’”
    • “Even though the publicity was almost entirely negative, there was a great deal of it, and that drew a tremendous amount of attention to Trump Tower. Almost immediately we saw an upsurge in the sales of apartments.”
    • “[I]n truth it probably says something perverse about the culture we live in. But ... I learned a lesson from that experience: good publicity is preferable to bad, but ... bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all.”
    • “The tenants even figured out a way to turn our relocation offer into evidence of harassment ... [It] was a clever tactic. Harassment is a virtual buzzword in New York. It prompts instant images of vicious landlords and victimized tenants. [T]hey could generate plenty of negative press about me merely by alleging that I was harassing them. The fact I denied the charges would only make it a juicier story.”
    • “[T]he press thrives on confrontation. They also love stories about extremes, whether they’re great successes or terrible failures.”
    • “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from dealing with politicians over the years, it’s that the only thing guaranteed to force them into action is ... fear of the press. Bad press translates into potential lost votes, and if a politician loses enough votes, he won’t get reelected.”
    Early Political Thinking
    • “[M]y accountant ... tells me he think the [new tax] law is an overall plus for me ... [T]he top tax rate on earned income is being dropped from 50 to 32%. However, I still believe the law will be a disaster for the country since it eliminates the incentives to invest and build.”
    • “[T]hree city councilmen held a news conference in front of the Commodore to denounce the deal. I didn’t take it personally. They were politicians. They sensed an issue that might play with the voters and the press, so they jumped on the bandwagon.”
    • “I have great respect for what the Japanese have done with their economy ... What’s unfortunate is that for decades now they have become wealthier in large measure by screwing the United States with a self-serving trade policy that our political leaders have never been able to fully understand or counteract.”
    • “[R]ent control is a disaster for all but the privileged minority who are protected by it ... Like a lot of failed government programs, rent control grew out of a decent idea that ended up achieving exactly the opposite of its intended effect.”
    • “Providing jobs, in my view, is a far more constructive solution to unemployment than creating welfare programs.”
    Then & Now
    • “My father had done very well for himself, but he didn’t believe in giving his children huge trust funds. When I graduated from college, I had a net worth of perhaps $200,000, and most of it was tied up in buildings in Brooklyn and Queens.”
    • “[Roy Cohn] said, ‘Is this just an academic conversation? I said, ‘No, it’s not academic at all. It so happens that the government has just filed suit against our company and many others, under the civil rights act, saying that we discriminated against blacks in some of our housing developments’ … The idea of settling drove me crazy. The fact was that we did rent to blacks in our buildings … [Cohn] said, ‘My view is tell them to go to hell and fight the thing in court ... I don’t think you have any obligation to rent to tenants who would be undesirable, white or black, and the government doesn’t have a right to run your business.’”
    • “I don’t kid myself about Roy. He was no Boy Scout. He once told me that he’d spent more than two-thirds of his adult life under indictment on one charge or another.”
    • “[A]ll Roy’s friends knew he was gay, and if you saw him socially, he was invariably with some very good-looking young man. But Roy never talked about it. He just didn’t like the image. He felt that to the average person, being gay was almost synonymous with being a wimp … That was the last thing he wanted to project, so he almost went overboard to avoid it. If the subject of gay rights came up, Roy was always the first one to speak out against them.”
    • “Tough as he was, Roy always had a lot of friends, and I’m not embarrassed to say I was one."
    • “He was a truly loyal guy ... You could count on him to go to bat for you, even if he privately disagreed with your view, and even if defending you wasn’t necessarily the best thing for him. He was never two-faced.”
    • “Just compare that with all the hundreds of ‘respectable’ guys who make careers out of boasting about their uncompromising integrity but have absolutely no loyalty. They think only about what’s best for them and don’t think twice about stabbing a friend in the back.”
    • “The person I hired to be my personal representative overseeing the construction [of Trump Tower], Barbara Res, was the first woman ever put in charge of a skyscraper in New York ... I’d watched her in construction meetings, and what I liked was that she took no guff … She was half the size of most of these bruising guys, but she wasn’t afraid to tell them off when she had to, and she knew how to get things done.”
    • “It’s funny. My own mother was a housewife all her life. And yet it’s turned out that I’ve hired a lot of women for top jobs, and they’ve been among my best people. Often, in fact, they are far more effective than the men around them.”
    • “[D]espite what some people may think, I’m not looking to be a bad guy when isn’t absolutely necessary.”
    • “I feel strongly about supporting veterans and was proud to help underwrite both the [1985 Vietnam Veterans ticker-tape] parade and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial constructed in downtown Manhattan.”
    • “I bought the New Jersey Generals in the fall of 1983 ... I’ve always been a football fan ... I also liked the idea of taking on the NFL, a smug, self-satisfied monopoly that I believed was highly vulnerable to an aggressive competitor.”
    • “[The NFL hired] a highly respected Harvard Business School professor named Michael Porter ... Porter bluntly outlined a multipart plan for declaring total war on our league [the USFL], by employing numerous anti-competitive strategies.”
    • “Among other things, she [the McKinsey executive] reported that a majority of fans who’d been surveyed in a poll wanted the USFL to stay in the spring. You can probably guess how much stock I put in polls.”
    • “I am interested in [an] undertaking in Moscow. The idea got off the ground after I sat next to the Soviet ambassador, Yuri Dubinin ... I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.”
    • “In January 1987 ... the leading Soviet state agency for international tourism ... expressed interest in pursuing a joint venture to construct and manage a hotel in Moscow … On July 4, I flew [there] with Ivana ... I was impressed with the ambition of the Soviet officials.”
    • “Mara-a-Lago was built in the early 1920s by Marjorie Merriweather Post, the heiress to the Post cereal fortune ... When Mrs. Post died she gave the house to the federal government for use as a presidential retreat."
    • “As little as I’m interested in relaxing, I enjoy Mar-a-Lago almost in spite of myself. It may be as close to paradise as I’m going to get.”
    That was the last quote from the book that struck me as relevant to understanding President Trump. Mission accomplished!
    The next book I will read in my unofficial 'understating Trump' series is, "How To Stand Up for Your Rights & Win!" by the late Roy M. Cohn, Trump's long-time attorney. I am fascinated by the man's life and his philosophy, and I'll be looking for tactics of his that Trump may be using today.