The following are approximately the first 1000 words from the Introduction to Jonar Nader’s book,
How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Lovers.
Relationships are the most distracting of all human endeavours
Undoubtedly, we can study love from many angles, including the psychological, theological, and philosophical. In addition, we can explore the various types of love, such as: the love that is shared between friends; the love that is freely given by parents towards their offspring; the love that is expressed by children towards one or both of their parents; the erotic love that is expressed affectionately towards random strangers with whom we crave to ignite a relationship; and the love of objects, pets, and external distractions from which some people derive solace or pleasure.
Obviously, love is broad and complex, let alone mysterious; especially when we add the self-sacrificing love that is given to fellow-humans in need of assistance.
This book will explore the core of the love that drives people in a positive, unselfish way towards engaging in life and its rewards. It will also address the hurdles and the traps. These are inevitable when the tide washes us onto the shore of the love that elates erotically, emotionally, and romantically.
Authors are frequently questioned about their motive and inspiration. Readers would ask ‘why’ I wrote this book. They would want to know how I came to address the topics of love and relationships. How does someone like me, with a technical and management background, venture into the elusive and intangible?
After the polite questions subside, probing ones will emerge, such as, what gives me the right or the authority or the knowledge to write about such a subject. And then there are those who, disagreeing with the messages, seek to discredit me by saying that I have no formal qualifications in this subject. My response will be demure and calm. I will simply smile and say that I wrote what was in my heart, and I drew on years of experience; not all mine. When you enter the public arena, you’d be surprised by how many people will confide in you. With each year that passes, I meet more people who, uninvited, pour out their hopes, dreams, desires, and pains. I never ask. They just tell, and seek, and query, and cry. And from these, I hear the pleas. People are hurting, and they are yearning for direction. They are hungry for solutions. They are restless for solace. They are burning for love. You see, in all my corporate consulting and coaching and mentoring and advising, it seems that, after the nitty-gritty of business settles down, most of my projects have their roots in ‘human relations’. Whether it is marketing or management or leadership or branding or terrorism or national security or sales or technology, it somehow stems from a desire to improve one’s lot. The root-cause for the agony seems to come from interpersonal relationships. At the core of all relationships is love. I did not set out to write about love. I was driven to it!
Life is indeed strange. Years ago, long before I decided to write How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People, conference delegates would flock to the stage to ask me for a copy of my book. Which book? ‘The one in which you cover the topics you touched on, in today’s presentation.’
I had no idea why they presumed that I had written a book. I was merely delivering a presentation. I made no reference to a publication. Truth be known, I still receive this type of enquiry. If I were to address an audience about, hypothetically speaking, the merits of eating carrots, someone is bound to ask where they can purchase the ‘carrot’ book. These days, this is especially problematic because most of my lectures are given a name within the ‘Lose Friends’ series, such as, How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Competitors. Although this subject is not yet a book, I receive endless requests for ‘the book’ — not encouragement to write one, but requests about where a copy can be purchased. They demand it. They write to the webmaster and insist that the website has a problem because the book is not showing up as an option in the shopping list. At one time, a businessman wrote to me and he happened to mention that he recently received a copy of How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Your Staff. This is a title of a lecture, but not yet a book. This aspect of his e-mail disturbed me. I sent it off to my legal department, somehow presuming that some silly smart-alec was trying to muscle in on my series. When no trace of the book was found in the market, we contacted the businessman and asked him more about this publication. He grabbed the book from his shelf and had a look at it, still insisting that he had it in his hand. He later laughed and realised that his staff members had played a practical joke on him. They had purchased one of my books and cleverly replaced the cover with one that they had mocked up and laminated manually as a way to drive a message home to their boss.
It’s funny what people presume. For example, it’s not uncommon for an MC at a conference to introduce me as Mister Nader, and then conclude by thanking Doctor Nader. Hmmm… it baffles me too!
I share this with you to give you part of the reason for this book. People have been asking for it. For example, after delivering an impassioned presentation to the directors, managers, and staff of an international bank, about brand-building and market-supremacy, a lady approached me at the end of the night and asked me if she could obtain some of my writings about love. Now I ask you: how did she get such a daft idea? The word ‘love’ never left my lips. I had not alluded to my interest in the subject, and I did not discuss this with the audience. You see, there is something spiritual or even spooky about the way that the universe draws us into certain cyclones. Throughout my travels, people bestow upon me an uninvited guru-status. They want to hear my opinion about ‘things’ and ‘stuff’. They share their stories about ‘life and living’ and about ‘love and loving’ and indeed about what torments them. Young people, especially, will ask me inscrutable questions that their parents would ask of them. They sound me out and put me under the spotlight to see how I would respond to a barrage of objections, which I know originated from their parents. The students want to see how someone should respond to their demanding or sometimes unreasonable parents. I get it all, especially via e-mail. These days, I receive mail from Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe, and from countries in between. Indeed, some of my books are now translated into Russian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Portuguese, and Serbian.
I am aware of many people around me who struggle with love. Their pain and mine spurs me to think about love and its challenges. For example, I know a young man who, at the age of eighteen, fell madly in love with a beautiful girl. As a friend of mine, I knew him to be level-headed and a thorough gentleman. Not many of them around at that age. He was calm, devoted, and one-hundred-percent committed to his girlfriend… until she began to date another guy during the fourth year of a relationship that hitherto was devoid of arguments or quarrels. This ‘betrayal’, as he would call it, affected him deeply. He went far away, overseas, to work, to learn, to forget. We kept in touch, but I did not raise the matter until five years later. I felt that enough time had passed, and new pleasant memories would now be occupying his mind. In response, at the age of twenty-six, he wrote, ‘There is a saying that goes, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Physically, this might be true. Emotionally, I can’t agree with it. That experience tore me in two. It was, without question, the most difficult time in my life. I’m strong mentally. It takes a lot to sway me, but that incident sure did knock me about. Now, where has it left me? I’m more guarded, less emotionally-open, and, you could say, still very much emotionally scarred. I have met other girls, but none with whom I have shared the same type of connection as I had with [my previous girlfriend]. Nowhere close. So I keep on searching. She wasn’t right for me. That I know. And I don’t live with regrets, even though I could have won her back. It wouldn’t have been the right thing to do, and I still believe it. But certainly, when I stand in front of the mirror and shave every morning, there are few days when she doesn’t come into my head. The difference now is that years have passed and they have numbed the senses. Indeed she has tried to be a friend of mine on Facebook etc, but I have declined. I can never be her friend. To answer your question about whether or not the merry-go-round is still spinning… the answer is yes. I’ll never recover from that and be the same again, but I’m able to function, and I know that that ship has sailed. On a different note altogether…’
And like a real trooper, he moved on and changed the subject. That’s a sign of maturity. He reminded me of a counselling session I had with a university counsellor whose approval I needed before I could be granted an extension for an assignment. My lecturer could not allow me to submit a late paper without the permission of the college psychologist. I was going through a very rough patch, and almost everything was going wrong for me. I just did not have the time to attend to the many urgent catastrophes in my life. The counsellor said to me, ‘I see hundreds of students each year, and they all have a story, and most of them try to pull the wool over my eyes, yet I can see that your case is genuine. I’m sorry about your difficulties. By all means, take your time. How long do you need?’ On the way out, I turned to the counsellor and asked how she knew that I was not spinning a lie, and she replied, ‘Most people who come in here, try to influence me. So they tend to ham-up the sob-story. They cry, they blub, they look disheartened and despondent… yet you smiled, you quipped, you laughed, and I could tell that this was due to some embarrassment, and some protection mechanism that honest people tend to exhibit when they are in deep trouble.’
My jilted friend holds his head high. His heart is completely shattered, but he stands hopeful. He can talk about it with me, but he recently admitted that he does find it almost impossible to speak about this with most people. Now twenty-seven years of age, he says, ‘It’s interesting that other girls have asked about that relationship. As you can imagine, people tend to probe into each other’s past. But it’s something I can’t easily talk about. Ninety percent of the time, I refuse outright. On the odd occasion that I do open up, I share few details. That process of trying to protect my emotions tends to make girls even more curious, and some might think I have something to hide, and so it creates more tension when girls latch on, trying to solve the mystery which is nothing more than a difficult and terrible journey. I had to ban my Mum from asking about her in any form, including mentioning bumping into [my previous girlfriend’s] mother at the shopping centre, as would happen every four to five months. You see, it all hurts so much.’
Indeed it hurts. For some of us, it hurts longer and the pain becomes stronger as we seek and search and look and delve and dream and fantasise and, with great intensity, wish for a happy ending. Love baffles. Love torments. Whether we are young or old, love takes up much of our attention. It’s weird that we profit little by thinking about it so much. If we were to spend as much time thinking about our studies or our work, we would probably excel in our chosen field. Yet when it comes to love, no matter how much we think about it, there seems to be little reward. Perhaps it’s due to the futility of the thinking processes. Often, our thoughts are reactive. They are not really thoughts at all. They are cerebral verbalisations of feelings. Ah, that must be it. When we think about love, we are merely reacting to the feelings about love, and in so doing, we are just responding to the pain. We do not really think. Instead, we discuss the matter in our lonely head, and we try to strategise, to plot, or to work out how we can overcome the challenges. Such discussions degrade into arguments. How can we win an argument with ourself? It’s a never-ending tit-for-tat. Dare we ever condemn ourself? Which part of my head shall have the last word? Which shall have the last laugh? Years ago I was thinking about the old adage that those who laugh last, laugh the best. It occurred to me that those who cry last, cry the most. For fear of admitting defeat, we keep the battle raging in our head, and we pretend to think about the solution. Recurring battles in our head rarely produce satisfactory results.
I know that people are hurting. Most are beautiful. Many are lost. Some have lost the plot. Others have lost something much more precious… hope. Almost all of them cry for affection and direction and acceptance and clarity and joy and simplicity and laughter. And they think that all this will come when they can snuggle in the arms of not only someone whom they love, but someone whom they love and who happens to love them back in equal measure, simultaneously. If only. Oh, if only those whom we loved, could love us in return. All the world’s troubles would lift and drift. All of these things are compounded by the difficulties and challenges that stem from our career, our work, our finances, our fears, our pressures, our loneliness, our insecurities, our age, and the ticking clock. Worst of all, they are complicated by the loss of hope. Losing hope is the final death knell. If there’s one thing that I want this book to do, it is to re-ignite hope. Without hope, nothing happens. Or should I say, without hope, everything happens, but it happens without purpose, without guidance, without joy, without reward. Hope is the key. Love is the ignition.
I have been assured that love conquers all. Perhaps so. Meanwhile, I would like to know what conquers love. It is for these reasons that I felt that we needed some structure and analysis. And this is where this book comes in.
PS: In all my books, out of respect to readers, I avoid the use of ‘he’ and ‘she’ as descriptors, unless I am referring to a specific person. For this reason, I speak about people in neutral terms so that all readers can associate with the stories.