The first excerpt I read describing Dr. Phil McGraw’s latest book, Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World said “accept that life is a game and decide whether you want to play or be played.” I admit it immediately put me off. It sounded too harsh and negative for my liking. And frankly, I didn’t like my options from the get go–either be a player or be the one played?! No thanks. But being a fan of some of Dr. Phil’s past books, I decided not to judge this book by its excerpt and give it a try… and I really enjoyed it!
I found Life Code to be practical, accessible, and very down to earth. It was chock-a-block full of common sense that is applicable to today’s real world—whether our world at work or in the personal realm. It aims to help us recognize the “bad guys” [both genders included herein] and give us “good guys” insights into how to be wise to their shameless games and ultimately protect ourselves.
I think the book could have just as easily been called Life Code: Get Street Smart OR Life Code: Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels OR Life Code: How to Be Savvy and Kick Ass So That Nefarious Sycophant Doesn’t Defraud You Next. [I particularly like that last one, thinking of passing it on to Dr. Phil in case he’s looking for a new title on a second edition.]
The book starts out with an unapologetic reminder that there are some real rotten apples in the world, people who are full of bad intentions and even evil. We are also given the reality check that today we do not live in the same world our parents brought us up in. Dr. Phil explains, “Yesterday’s rules and expectations about relationships, emotions and interacting just simply don’t apply any more… and those who figure that out and adapt to the current world will have an incredible edge.”
The “bad guys” he refers to are the users, abusers, perpetrators, scammers, and exploiters of the world. They are the sort who play by their own charlatan rules, they defraud, take, leech, exploit, deceive, use, take advantage, prey upon, manipulate, and lie for their own gain–all without any empathy or regard for the harm they do to others. I wish it weren’t true. As a person committed to positive thinking and as a psychology professional trained to find “the good” in people, I know Dr. Phil is right. The bad guys do exist and, as he points out, they intend to take what they want and they do not care if they hurt you. Some of these bad guys even brag about their evil conquests.
Dr. Phil offers up many interesting real life examples throughout the book, and even shares his own vulnerabilities as he recounts some of his personal interactions with the people who have exploited, deceived, and taken advantage of him over the years. He talks about the tricks they used to get him to let down his guard. His insights serve as a valuable cautionary tale for all of us. He goes on throughout the book to share the “evil 8 identifiers” to recognize the characteristics of the bad guy and the “sweet 16” tactics for protecting yourself.
My Big Takeaway… the little word “AND”
For me, the big light bulb moment and single most important takeaway I gleaned from Life Code was the power of the little word “and.” This book really helped me to reconcile these opposing realities:
(A) My want to continue to be an optimistic, positive, glass-half-full kind of person with
(B) the harsh reality that the bad guys do exist all around—and perhaps even moreso than in past generations.
(A) While I live in this world to help, to support, and to give to others
(B) the bad guy wakes up each day with the intent to defraud, scam, and take from others without regard for the turmoil created.
Both A and B realities are true. I (like many readers I would imagine) certainly don’t want to become hardened and cynical after reading this book. I don’t want to trade in my compassion and caring for a tough outer shell. At the same time I (like many readers I would imagine) don’t want to be gullible either. Hmm so now what? Should us kind compassionate types simply learn to show up in the world a little differently now that we have this inside knowledge of the bad guy’s game? A little wiser to the harsh realities of these victimizers, what approach shall we model for our children growing up in this modern world? Here are some truths I have come away with that have reconciled these contrasting realities for me:
- We can see the good in the world AND know that not all people are good.
- We can support a person AND not be the one to give (or give in) to him/her.
- We can want good for people AND recognize that not all people want good for us.
- We can choose to see the best in people AND be aware that “the best” is not in all people.
- We can be optimistic AND wise to their game.
- We can be kind AND honour our personal boundaries.
- We can be caring AND discerning.
- We can be helpful AND savvy.
Overall the Book Gets My Two Thumbs Up
If you are a man or a woman interested in getting some insights into how the most difficult people in your life (the “bad guys”) do what they do, and would like to gain some knowledge about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from their lure, I recommend reading this book. I’d even recommend it for parents to give their young adult children for some valuable life lessons as only Dr Phil can teach them. As I understand it, Dr. Phil wrote this book for his granddaughters to teach them to be aware and wise.
Would love to hear your thoughts on my review or on the book itself. Be well!
Dr Phil McGraw, Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World, 2013
Dr Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door, 2006