The Poor Me Manual

Perfecting Self-Pity—My Own Story
By Hunter Lewis
Hardcover: $12.00 • ISBN: 978-1-60419-074-8

Why did the co-founder of a global investment firm and author of 8 books on economics and philosophy write a work of fiction called The “Poor Me” Manual?

Hint: He has teenage children (and thinks there is something of the teenager in all of us).

“This is about what I would have expected from Hunter Lewis.”

—Karen Olden


Hunter Lewis’s newest title, The “Poor Me” Manual: Perfecting Self-Pity—My Own Story, is a tongue-in-cheek look at emotions. There is method in this madness.

The author in earlier books developed a unique theory of emotions and the reader will learn a great deal about which emotional strategies work and which don’t. Included is a guide to 20 different ways people get off the track emotionally.

The chapters lead you through the mysterious author’s 20 different phases, exhausting every imaginable kind of neurotic behavior.

The author finally asks “Do I Want to Be Happy?”—and the voice of the neurotic author answers emphatically, “No!”

This is fun reading as well as an interesting new approach explaining how people make mistakes with their lives and how they can reassess.

About the Author

Hunter Lewis, co-founder of global investment firm Cambridge Associates, has written nine books on moral philosophy, psychology, and economics, including the widely acclaimed Are the Rich Necessary? (“Highly provocative and highly pleasurable.”—New York Times). He has contributed to the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as numerous websites such as,,,, and He has served on boards and committees of fifteen leading not-for-profit organizations, including environmental, teaching, research, cultural, and global development organizations.

Singerpreneur (March 12, 2014):

“This unusual book . . . is an engaging ride, funny in its audacity and . . . well-written. . . . . [It] gives an introspective consumer much to think about. Think of it as philosophical kick in the head, and see what happens.”

[Complete review:]

The Bookworm Chronicles (April 7, 2014):

The Poor Me Manual is an interesting and quirky memoir . . . well written in a surprisingly down-to-earth style. . . . I found [Lewis] and his journey fascinating.”

[Complete review:]

What is That Book About (December 23, 2013):

“Before you dive into the book, the author lets the reader know that a manuscript came as a package one day. Enclosed was a note from a mysterious author explaining that he saw a book of his and adopted his name with the expectation to be published. I thought that was a fascinating idea that sort of piques the interest of the reader wondering who and what this mysterious author was about.”

[Complete review:]

1600 Words a Day (December 9, 2013):

“Poor Me reveals a person riddled with self-doubt and insecurities, and tortured by the feeling of always being adrift. . . . Lewis packages all of this in witty prose.”

[Complete review:]


“The book is funny, sad, parts made me happy and others made me take a look at my inner self. I found it to be very imaginative and it is definitely a must read. You will think of your emotional being in a different way after reading this book.”

—D. Lamb (March 29, 2014)

“This was such a well written book about emotions & the roller coaster they can take you on if you let them. . . . If you are having a hard time in life, give this a read & at least you’ll get a good laugh.”

—MoonShineArtSpot (March 4, 2014)

From NetGalley:

“Hunter Lewis shares the art of perfecting self-pity in this fun to read work about mistakes people make in life and trying to recover from them.”

—Chris Moore (December 16, 2013)

“This book is entertaining and thought provoking. The author describes personality types and a journey through life well. It reminds me of a modern day Ecclesiastes.”

—Concetta Kellough (November 29, 2013)


“Charming in a self-indulging, pitiful kind of way. All the negative thoughts you’ve ever had realize themselves in Lewis’ narrative and end poorly, allowing you, the reader, to forego making all those poor decisions.”

—Kelsie (March 24, 2014)

“Smart, funny, self-indicting wisdom. A rather humorous trip thru the masks we wear.”

—Cherylann (March 22, 2014)

Author’s Note



1. My “Gamesman” Phase

2. My “Prince” Phase

3. My “High Flyer” Phase

4. My “Perfectionist” Phase

5. My “Compulsive” Phase


6. My “Boss” Phase

7. My “Fighter” Phase

8. My “Avenger” Phase

9. My “Sulker” Phase

10. My “Helper” Phase


11. My “Recluse” Phase

12. My “Onlooker” Phase

13. My “Conformist” Phase

14. My “Escapist” Phase

15. My “Routinist” Phase


16. My “Defendant” Phase

17. My “Prisoner” Phase

18. My “Dependent” Phase

19. My “Self-effacer” Phase

20. My “Martyr” Phase

Do I Want to Be Happy?


The Five Basic Emotions


Perfecting self-pity is an unusual goal. But then I am an unusual person. Very occasionally unusual people attract followers. They change the way the world sees things, the way the world works. I am under no illusions that this book will find readers, or that if it does, anyone will want to follow my example. Perhaps at least some people will enjoy reading my story, regardless of whether it persuades them of anything.

As any reader will shortly learn, I have not always been of the same mind about almost anything. When young, I planned to be a stupendous, world-historical success. When all my hopes came crashing down in ruin, I explored other pathways.

My life has been rich in incident. When the French philosopher Montaigne heard a man say that he was a pathetic failure, he responded: “Have you not lived? Is that not the purpose of life?” This is not an exact quote, but Montaigne and I agree. I have lived. Indeed I may say that I have had an extraordinary life of exploration and discovery. If it was not successful by the world’s standards, did it not give me this opportunity to nourish and perfect self-pity, and to share my accumulated insights with others?

Some will doubtless object that self-pity is too private a pleasure, or too selfish, or not robust enough. I may even be reviled like that poor fellow Machiavelli, whose only fault was describing people as they are, not as they pretend to be. The world rewarded him by making his first name, Nick, synonymous with the devil, and his last name with untrustworthy behavior. If I am not misunderstood or reviled, my position will strike most people as odd. Well, even I did not appreciate the dignity and truthfulness of self-pity until I was well into middle age.

Before proceeding with my life, which speaks for itself, let me note that if some readers see their way to sponsor pity parties, in order to promote this book, I would consider it a very thoughtful gesture.

Herewith my life in four acts, so to speak, with a concluding postlude.


From: The Green Years

I was young. I was ambitious. It wasn’t just that I wanted to succeed. I had to succeed. It was a “must” situation. I couldn’t be happy for a moment otherwise. Of course, one isn’t supposed to admit this kind of thing. But why not? That’s how I felt. Why pretend otherwise now?

1. My “Gamesman” Phase

I knew from observation that life is a game. There was no mystery about it. The object of the game is to outsmart and out-maneuver other people in order to win. Winning will get you whatever it is you want. What you should want is money, power, sex, fame, looking good, staying healthy. But above all, the real key is that you need to impress people.

As important as people are, you need to avoid being friends with them. Make them think they’re your friend, sure. Get them to help you. But don’t worry about loyalty and especially don’t worry about keeping your promises. You have to sound sincere; that’s basic. But so long as you sound sincere when you make commitments, that’s enough. Time will pass and you can always deny whatever it is you said. Get whatever you can out of other people and move on.

Alas, this approach did not work out as well as I expected. Through a real stroke of luck, my first college roommate was some kind of computer genius. He liked me and asked me to become his partner in selling the software he was developing. Then an unexpected systems server bill popped up. I would have had to help pay it from my allowance, and I promptly denied that we had ever agreed to be partners. My roommate moved out and on, became a multimillionaire in a few years, and all I had were the “might-have-beens” along with a lesson in the limitations of “gaming” my way through life.

2. My “Prince” Phase

I decided to take a different tack. Had I been born royalty, people would rush to do my bidding. Why not act as if I were royalty and make it clear that I expected to be waited upon, that whatever I wanted, I got?

I wouldn’t be blatant about it. I would try my best to appear innocent, even charming. I was especially inspired by reading an essay describing Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of a famous illustrated little book named—what else?—The Little Prince. Here’s an excerpt:

[Exupery was] a starry-eyed innocent [who] worked from midnight to seven in the morning and thought nothing of summoning his guests at any time to show off a drawing of which he was particularly proud. . . . [Nor did he] hesitate to awaken his wife and the whole household, at two in the morning, to say that he was hungry, in dire need of a plate of scrambled eggs. In another two hours [he might call up the stairs] demand[ing] that his wife come down [to play] chess.*

*Stacey Schiff, “A Grounded Soul: Saint-Exupery in New York,” New York Times Book Review, (May 30, 1993): 15.

I wasn’t married yet, but tried the same technique on my girlfriend. It did not go smoothly. That put me in a very bad mood. The next day a friend refused to lend me money. Then, later that same day, I was bumped from an overfull airplane flight, despite having bought a ticket and traveled all the way to the airport. I demanded to be put on the plane, but the attendant wasn’t buying it. I had to admit: Saint-Exupery I wasn’t.

Praise for Hunter Lewis’s Books

(Psychology/Philosophy Titles)

The Best Selling A Question of Values: Six Ways We Make the Personal Choices That Shape Our Lives

“Not only teaches us how to think about values; it teaches us how to think. This book should be required reading in schools.”

—A. Bartlett Giamatti (1938-1989), former president of Yale University and commissioner of baseball

“An important book.”

—Henry Rosovsky, former dean of arts and sciences and currently Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

“An enormously worthwhile book. Lewis provides a unique way of organizing our thinking about values. Very useful as we sort out conflicting contemporary issues.”

—Adele Simmons, president, MacArthur Foundation

“We live in a world in which individual choice is often complex and difficult. Hunter Lewis lucidly and evenhandedly provides a framework for reflecting upon the different value systems that underpin the decisions each one of us must make.”

—Katherine Fuller, president, World Wildlife Fund

“A brilliant work on what is by far the most important topic in modern politics, philosophy, economics, and psychology—namely, values.”

—Ken Wilbur, editor, New Science Library, and author of Transformation of Consciousness

“A stimulating book if ever there was one . . . an eye opener.”

—Dorothy R. and Homer A. Thompson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey

“Especially useful . . . to help students . . . in actual human decision-making.”

—Harvey Cox, professor of divinity, Harvard University, author of Many Mansions and The Secular City

“An important book for advertising and marketing professionals.”

—Bruce Crawford, president and CEO, Omnicon, Inc.

“Gives readers a framework with which to clarify their own beliefs and understand the beliefs of others . . . helps to make sense of . . . the diversity of values in our society.”

—Patricia H. Werhane, Senior Fellow, Olsson Center for Applied Ethics, The Darden School, University of Virginia

“In today’s environment, leaders of business must understand and respond to human values if their institutions are to survive and prosper. I highly recommend Hunter Lewis’s book.”

—James R. Houghton, former chairman and CEO, Corning, Inc.

“For Hunter Lewis, this book has obviously been a lifelong journey of discovery. His lucid writing lets the reader share his insights on an intimate, one-to-one basis.”

—Samuel L. Hayes III, Jacob Schiff Professor of Investment Banking, Harvard Business School

“With remarkable perspicacity and skill, Hunter Lewis provides a convincing framework of values. . . . His analysis is objective, nonpartisan, wide-ranging, current, concrete, and lucid. For general readers this work will prove lively and illuminating; for undergraduates it will be a godsend and an ideal introduction to this vital subject.”

—Edgar F. Shannon (1918–1997), former president and former professor of English, University of Virginia

The Beguiling Serpent: A Re-evaluation of Emotions and Values

“The Beguiling Serpent” takes us on a provocative and intriguing journey into the imperfectly understood world of human emotions. More philosophy than science, Hunter Lewis’s highly original yet simple framework for observing, understanding, and managing emotions invites reading at one sitting, but reflection long after.

—Kathryn S. Fuller, president, World Wildlife Fund