Written by S. Bowyer


     Dr. Phil McGraw, known for his work with Oprah and his own show, describes this book as politically incorrect, as he states the book was to bluntly go where nobody has gone before. He aimed to write a book that explains how today's world works, not that of yesteryear where moral high-ground and fancy conquered all. After working as a psychologist for over 30 years he has seen the good and very bad of the world, and wanted to get one-up on who he calls BAITERS (Backstabbers, Abusers, Imposters, Takers, Exploiters and/or Reckless people) by arming others against them.

     He admits in the book, "(it was) written from a place of passion, determination, and concern. . . I can unequivocally say, that I have commonalities and seen the good, the bad and the ugly of life. . . I have gained a painful wisdom I seek to share."

     It all starts with lists. Dr. Phil aimed to analyse traits in negative and dangerous people he had encountered. What did they have in common? What tactics did they use to control and manipulate? What personality traits did they have? What warning signs did they display? How did they get so much power? What had they done to sucker in their victims? What behaviours and patterns became predictable? He sought to make connections and he did. I found this section of the book quite intriguing because I wanted to know what he had experienced. By giving anecdotes, Dr. Phil dropped his air of professional genius to show that he, too, had been a victim. His message to his readers overall is that you are not silly to be caught -- BAITERS are just well-rehearsed in hurting others.

     The first part of the book is about defending yourself, understanding how their traits work, and signs when you are being taken advantage of or co-erced. Dr. Phil comments that he tried to find a book that had already attempted to analyse and share this data only a fully-inclusive book didn't exist, so was even more inspired to write it. 

     "Maybe authors and researchers were thinking this endeavour was too negative. . . or just indescribable. But come on, we have a world infected with the fungus of certain human beings whose primary purpose in life is to get up every day and take advantage of others, and who these people are and how they do what they do is knowable -- knowable! And if it's knowable it should be avoidable. We can at least take away the element of surprise. "

     "I would rather suspect 10 innocent people temporarily than fail to uncover one snake that could do permanment damage to me or those I love."

     Dr. Phil coined the Evil 8, the biggest signs to spot in Baiters. In the book he goes into detail how these traits are noticed and identified, and also how they are used to line victims up for taking down. He also created the Nefarious 15 list, which goes further into discovering the snakes among us. 


The Evil 8

    • * Arrogant entitlement
    • * Lack empathy
    • * No remorse/guilt
    • * Irresponsible/self-destructive
    • * Thrives on drama
    • * Brags about outsmarting others
    • * Short term relationships
    • * Fantasy world/delusional


The Nefarious 15

    • * They infiltrate your life with promises and flattery.
    • * Define you as a conspiratorial confidant.
    • * Are focused on getting your approval.
    • * They gather data to build a file on you.
    • * Misdirect and maintain a mystery about who they really are.
    • * Constantly blame others when confronted.
    • * They will lie to the point of destruction.
    • * Tendency to cheat and steal. 
    • * Isolate their victims to foster dependency.
    • * Abuse positions of power.
    • * Know your hot buttons to gain leverage.
    • * Selective memory.
    • * Two-faced: Spread lies and gossip.
    • * Paranoid.
    • * Passive aggressive.


     The book often sets homework for the reader, or little assignments to assist the reader in considering people in their lives by their traits, and also themselves. It was a good touch. Instead of being an observer as the information is given, and passively taking it in, I liked being able to actively consider what I was learning and putting it into practice. I wrote down the traits that had been active in several people in my past, and it started to make sense. 

     As well as recognising traits, Dr. Phil speaks of how you can innoculate yourself by witholding judgement and staying in investigative mode. He explains what this means and how to trust yourself. While he states he is not out to change the reader, he does suggest they think about how they respond to the Baiters, because they always have their game plan ready to go. 

     "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he writes.



     In the second half of the book, Dr. Phil aims to teach you how to win in the real world. He talks about the cliches we all grew up with and why they no longer work. He ascribes that we not only need to avoid Baiters, but also learn from them. While their tactics and traits are used for negative actions, we can use these powers for good and improve our lives. However, first we need to empower ourselves, understand our true selves, and work on our weaker areas. Some of these come from humanistic psychology, where the self being made whole is the goal. 

"You need to learn how to play smarter and harder and bigger in every aspect of your life. " -- Dr. Phil McGraw.


     Dr. Phil goes into great detail explaining his new playbook, a 16-point list of new rules to protect yourself from manipulations, empower yourself, earn new opportunities, understanding social systems and generally, get one-up on others without becoming a Baiter yourself.  The book includes examples and explanations of how each can be used in everyday life. Some of them are:

    • * Have a defined “image” and never go out of character. You must know both yourself and how to present yourself.
    • * Learn to claim and accept praise, and acknowledge it in a gracious way, but do accept it. The goal is to get noticed and acknowledged for who you are and what you do.
    • * Always be in investigatory mode. You have to constantly be gathering relevant information that may empower you to do and achieve what you desire.
    • * Create a passionate nucleus of supporters. Surround yourself with people who share your passion and vision, and support your pursuit of your goals.
    • * Recognize and use the ego and greed of others to create a path to success. If you want acceptance and to be heard and well-regarded, you can create receptivity by being sensitive to your listener’s ego.


     This section of the book is full of homework tasks, however, they are not difficult or for those who are writing inclined. More lists. The primary goal of this area is to strengthen the reader, prepare them for what's to come, and to inspire. Dr. Phil assists in brainstorming:

    • - your behaviours that disrupt and stop your success, as well as behaviours that nourish it
    • - what you are passionate about (because passion is a major driving force)
    • - 10 things you are insecure about and need to admit and accept about yourself
    • - your strengths, weaknesses and proclivities
    • - how to play the what if game to the end for a more realistic finale 
    • - your skills, talents, attributes
    • - what you love about yourself
    • - your negative traits and how they function in your life
    • - how you define success and what success would look like for you
    • - your goals and how they can be easier committed to when in measurable form
    • - your resources to deal with Baiters 


     Some time is also spent on explaining how expression of goals in measurable terms is more instrumental to success, and how to do this. Many disciplines of psychology would back this, particularly solution-focused therapy modalities. 

     "The difference between a goal and a dream is an action plan," writes Dr. Phil.

     This area of the book had me writing dozens of notes because it was jam-packed with information and ideas, as well as feedback on the traits or behaviours we might use to unintentionally disadvantage ourselves. Some of the information could be found in other empowerment or self-help books, but the way it was presented was very user-friendly and inspired interaction. I was particularly impressed by the way he re-designed the skills of negotiating and how to approach them from a different angle.

     "The only person you need to control to create the results you want is you, which is good especially because the only person you can control is you," writes Dr. Phil.

     The last section of this book is for parents. It's a chapter on preparing children for Baiters and the world around them. Childhood could be thought of as too soon to learn such skills, however, we teach children stranger danger at an early age, so why not emotional protection too? It's a common understanding among therapists that emotional damage in adults often traces back to earlier in life, so the aim to save children from being victims early on would reduce their problems later in adult life. It would empower them to be stronger and more proactive as they develop.

      Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World is a reference book that is blunt, sometimes humourous, and full of strategies, examples and explanations. It's a book that will challenge you to compare experiences in your lifetime that didn't serve you. The book seems like a paranoia manual at first, but once into the guts of it, it is understood the protective measures are plausible and useful in society. As an added challenge, you can even measure well-known convicted killers or extortionists against the Evil 8 and Nefarious 15. You'll probably get a lot of matches. 

     The most memorable part of the book would be the section that addresses the Baiters directly. Dr. Phil speaks about why these people rarely conform and how therapy might actually aid them more on their quest to ruin or steal from others. He even gives "advice" to the Baiters who might be listening, a lengthy rebuke on their behaviors and what they're doing. A few quotes: 

     "If the first 3 chapters of this book has sounded like your autobiography, if in hearing it it feels like I actually know you and am describing you, then I have some things to say especially to you. First and foremost, life is about choices, and if you are a baiter -- if you spend your life jerking people around -- it is because you are choosing to do so. You're not a victim; you're not a genetic prisoner. And you're not captive to your upbringing. "

     "Baiters are typically very immature and immature people tend to seek immediate gratification without consideration of long-term complications. You can sometimes get a short-term payoff if you get away with exploiting someone so in the moment or the immediate basis it can appear that what you're doing is working, but if you stand back and take the long view, you can see that throughout your life you have never built any relationships lasting, you never achieved anything that you were genuinely proud of, and you never have a sense of peace because you are always immersed in drama, conflict and turmoil because people object to you exploiting them. "

     "I'm also betting that if you were honest, you'd admit to being lonely and oftentimes feels like you're one step ahead of being found out and caught. Sorry, but my question is, who is the sucker here? That is not what I would call a successful lifestyle. "

      Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World is available in thousands of bookstores in print, DVD US region, and e-book edition in the US. iTunes stocks the audio book, as does Amazon.com. Australian residents will only find print and audio book editions available.

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