PERSONAL ATTITUDES TOUTED AS GENERAL PRINCIPLES: TRUMP’S TRICKS OF THE TRADE
A Book Review by Lindsay Barrett
TITLE: TRUMP 101: The Way To Success
AUTHOR: Donald J. Trump
PUBLISHER: Trump University (now closed) New York
One of the first facts that we must make clear is that this work was originally published by the notoriously self-important real estate tycoon who is now the Republican candidate for President of the United States at a time when hardly anyone seriously believed he could ever be considered for that ticket. As a consequence anyone reading this work at this particular time will find it difficult not to relate the contents to the race for the Presidency and the author’s conduct on the campaign trail. The other important fact that the reader must contend with is that the Trump University which published the work collapsed in a scandalous heap under the weight of multiple law suits and accusations of fraud, some of which are still being pursued in the courts. As a result any attempt to pass this volume off as genuine textual reference for courses available at the institution as its title suggests would be misleading. The work belongs to a genre of publishing that is widely practiced in America in which can be found some highly praised titles that have become global bestsellers. This genre is known as motivational literature and the eight decades old How To Win Friends and Influence People and several other tomes by the late Dale Carnegie are often considered to have been the founding prototypes of the format. The main characteristic of these works is that they claim to proffer advice on how to achieve success in business or professionally through the development of modes of conduct and behavioural attitudes that individuals can learn to adopt.
Quite often these works claim to base their tenets and presumptions of success on examples from real life that have been proven to work. This short but self-confident anthology of comments and claims by Donald Trump promotes the presumption that his success in business is proof that whatever he says about how he has conducted his life and his operations must hold the secret of universal success. Apart from the fact that this is far from true the assumptions listed here are also clearly based on an even more vain conceit as Mr. Trump makes it plain that he is his own teacher for the most part and sets out to convince the reader that his personal methodology is a foolproof formula for success. Reading this work today one can easily understand why during his campaign so far and especially in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention he exhibited a penchant for making boastful claims. When he announced that America was broken and he was the only one who could fix it, he was repeating a theme that is at the core of this work on a less grandeur scale. Over and over in this book he claims that the major asset that any successful person needs is passion for ones choice of work. However this theme is promoted with such reckless repetition that it soon resonates with boring tedium and is revealed for what it really is, which is a personal obsession of the author’s that is probably more responsible for his failures than for his successes.
Trump defines passion as a deep commitment to self-interest rather than as a commitment to principles of service and conscientious readers will soon recognise this flawed attitude as the fundamental principle at work in the entire book. Trump’s strategy appears to be to presume that all his readers will accept the presumption that his self-promotion is a sign of virtual infallibility and to reinforce this presumption by deploying aphorisms and clever phraseology that will strengthen this belief. The format of the work is cleverly designed to carry out this purpose. It is a compendium of various notes and memoranda drawn supposedly from Trump’s wealth of hands-on experience in the world of high stakes financial speculation but it is remarkably short on detail or formal instruction. Each chapter is divided into sections that include pronouncements of personal ideals that he touts as being general principles, backed up with excerpts from a diary of his daily activities and what are supposed to be exemplary answers to queries submitted to him on the Trump University blog site. However it is only fair that we should warn readers that, based on the issues that led to the closure of Trump University, these blog queries might have been tailored to suit the book’s objective rather than being independent contributions from disinterested interrogators. In fact this work reads like a digest of correspondence put together by a committee of Mr. Trump’s loyalist employees with occasional interventions from the master builder himself especially when he steps in to praise those very loyalists or promote some special projects such as his famous TV reality show The Apprentice.
Donald Trump’s entry into the world of political gamesmanship that the American presidential contest has become has revealed him to be a master manipulator of audiences, an attribute exhibited in this work with convincing credibility. The personal attitudes touted here by him as general principles are presented with careful attention to the readers’ presumptions of the author’s triumphal veracity. For this reason if for no other the Rainbow Book Club’s choice of Trump 101 as book of the month for August, the month when the Presidential race heats up in earnest, vindicates its continued topicality rather than its literary quality.