Darien public relations executive publishes book on decision-making
The average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. “Most of the decisions aren’t thought through. They just happen,” said public relations executive Robert Dilenschneider.
Dilenschneider, a Darien resident, decided to write a book to help people think more about the important decisions they make.
The book highlights critical decisions made by 23 historical figures, from Roman Empire dictator Julius Caesar to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani activist who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012.
“If you can make better decisions, your life will be better,” Dilenschneider said.
“Decisions: Practical Advice from 23 Men and Women Who Shaped the World” is the 14th book published by Dilenschneider, who started his own public relations firm three decades ago. He previously was president and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, one of the largest public relations companies in the world.
The book offers insight and guidance on pivotal decisions that can change and transform a person’s life, he said.
“I have faced significant decisions in my life, as have you,” Dilenschneider writes. “At some point, no matter how much help is available, it falls to you and you alone.”
Businessman Steve Forbes wrote the book’s foreword. Television personality Dr. Oz said readers of the book can “upgrade your daily decisions with the wisdom of two dozen renowned influencers who changed history.”
The backgrounds of the individuals featured vary greatly, from painter Pablo Picasso to Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg to boxer Muhammad Ali, and businessman Henry Ford to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
Others include Joan of Arc, theologian Martin Luther, President Abraham Lincoln, biologist Louis Pasteur, physicist Marie Curie, restaurateur Howard Johnson and environmental writer Rachel Carson.
Dilenschneider, 76, said he chose the individuals based on how they’ve impacted the world.
The book opens with President Harry Truman, focusing on his decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan in 1945 to end World War II.
“He did one of the most dramatic things ever — he dropped the bomb,” Dilenschneider said. “His decision changed the course of history. He ultimately had to make that decision alone and he didn’t look back.”
“Stick to your convictions. Have courage,” he said are among the lessons learned from Truman, who apparently didn’t know about the atomic bomb’s existence until being sworn in as president following Franklin Roosevelt’s death in office.
He said Henry Ford didn’t just produce cheaper cars through mass production but helped create the American middle class. Johnson introduced the concept of franchised restaurants while being a fan of “fine dining.”
Ali took brave actions based on conscience that hurt his career, and Curie overcame gender discrimination to research radioactivity, according to Dilenschneider.
Yousafzai, age 15 when shot, was inspired by parents who encouraged her love of learning. She’s since become a worldwide activist for girls’ education.
“Do not give up” is one lesson from Yousafzai’s life, according to Dilenschneider.
He’s already working on a sequel book that will feature 23 new people and their momentous decisions. “Steve Jobs will be one of them,” he said, noting that’s the person he didn’t include who he’s asked about the most.
Don’t expect any current U.S. political leader to make it into the new book, he said. In today’s political climate, he’s worried about indecisiveness by government leaders in Washington.
“Regardless of your political outlook, Congress right now — Republicans and Democrats — are not making decisions,” he said. “They are bypassing decisions important to the country and being partisan by sticking it to each other.”
A job in public relations was not Dilenschneider’s goal after graduating from college. “It was a total fluke,” the Ohio native said.
At the time, he was embarrassed to tell his father he didn’t know what he wanted to do for a living. His dad responded he could join the military and go to Vietnam, work at a local shoe store, or travel to New York City to find a career path. His father then handed him a bus ticket to Manhattan.
Dilenschneider took the bus ride and got hired by a large public relations firm at $10,000 a year. He rose through the ranks before making what he called his best business decision ever by starting his own public relations company in 1991.
The Dilenschneider Group, based in New York, offers communications advice to Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, trade groups and others. He’s lectured at the Harvard Business School and been called the “dean of American public relations executives.”
He is also proud of decisions involving the 3,000 people he’s hired during his professional career. “It’s great to have pros around you,” he said. “It’s not good to have amateurs.”
Dilenschneider and his wife Jan moved to Darien 23 years ago from Manhattan while raising their two sons, who now are grown up and live elsewhere. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” he said. “They’re gone now but we’re still here.”
The couple recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Jan is a painter whose work has been shown internationally. He dedicated the book to her with these words, “To my wife Jan, the best decision I ever made.”
His other books include “The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life,” “Power and Influence” and “50 Plus! Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life.”