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How to Succeed, According to Andrew Carnegie

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The American Dream

Andrew Carnegie was a poor immigrant from Scotland and ended up becoming an American entrepreneur during the Industrial Revolution. Carnegie started Carnegie Steel and became one of the wealthiest people in the United States. Carnegie used his wealth to help improve mankind through the philanthropies he set up in scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. Today we still benefit from many of the philanthropic causes he set up including Carnegie-Mellon University established in the early 1900s.

Carnegie became one of the wealthiest businessmen in America. His company, Carnegie Steel Company, used the technology of the time in the late 1800s to revolutionize the production of steel. He owned the entire production line from the means of transporting the raw materials to the coal fields that fueled the furnaces. This is known as vertical integration and allowed him to buy and produce steel far more cheaply than his competition. His factories around the country increased his efficiency and productivity which gave him the advantage to control much of the steel industry, making him ever more wealthy.

Carnegie grew up quite poor and it made him resolved to become wealthy when he became a man. His family came to America when he was a young boy for the opportunities they did not have in Scotland. Carnegie was always very ambitious and for each job he had, he did to the best of his ability and looked for opportunities to take on additional responsibilities. He had a lifelong quest for learning and used to go to a small library that was available to boys who worked.

Carnegie loved to read and gain knowledge from his readings. His work ethic got him higher and higher up the corporate ladder at Pennsylvania Railroad. After the Civil War, Carnegie saw great potential in the iron and steel business, where he ended up making his fortune.

Carnegie Success and Philanthropic Philosophy

Carnegie’s success in business came from his determination to never be poor, from his ability to take risks, from his foresight and ability to see how things were changing, and for his dedication at keeping his expenses down, because he believed “watch costs, and the profits take care of themselves.”

By the year 1900, Carnegie Steel was a bigger producer of metal than the entire country of Great Britain. In 1901, he sold his steel business to J.P. Morgan, U.S. Steel, for $480 million, making him the richest man in the world.

Carnegie use to say "the man who dies rich, dies disgraced," so after he sold Carnegie Steel at the age of 64, he used his money to help people help themselves. Carnegie did not believe in handing out charity, so he established higher learning educational institutions, nearly giving away about $350 million.

Success Advice From Carnegie

In a newspaper article from the Pittsburg Bulletin, December, 1903, Carnegie gave his advice to those who were looking for tips on how to succeed. There were a few rules that he believed were important to achieving business success.

First, his advice was to not drink in public places, for drunkenness, he thought was a low and unworthy thing for a self-respecting man to do. Back then men smoked tobacco in smoking rooms to be away from women, and Carnegie thought it was not a good idea for men to withdraw from women and be in the company of other smoking men whom they did not know well.

Carnegie’s advice about success was to work at the same line of work because there was room at the top in every field. He believed if you put your energy towards one thing, and watch that thing grow, concentration will make your endeavors worthwhile.

He believed you do things above and beyond what is required, and to always do better than your best. He believed when a man discovers how his employer’s interest can be better served, he should tell him so.

Whatever your work is, learn about the needs and opportunities more than even your boss does so that you can better serve the company.

His advice about money was to save some of your salary, to live within your means, and to develop good habits. The business owners who are looking to employ a person are looking for intelligence and good business habits.

He believed a person should never speculate in stocks using margins. Better, he thought, to buy land or solid security. Gambling, he believed, never makes for long term success. He believed a man should be honest in his words and action. Carnegie said only a person can cheat themselves out of an honorable career.

Carnegie gave many good tips about what he felt was the path to success. He believed in helping others and was very philanthropic. Yet when it came to business, his fortune was built upon shrewd business tactics.

He looked to hire motivated and productive employees so he gave them a vested interest in the company's profits by letting his workers be part of a profit-sharing plan.

He wanted his employees to produce much and share in the success the company enjoyed.

There are many quotes Carnegie had about success.

  • “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.”
  • “There is little success where there is little laughter.”
  • “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.”
  • “Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!”
  • “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.”
  • “No man can become rich without himself enriching others"
  • “The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.”
  • “Do not look for approval except for the consciousness of doing your best.”
  • “The secret of success lies not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right man to do it.”
  • “You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.”
  • “Every act you have ever performed since the day you were born was performed because you wanted something.”
  • “Aim for the highest.”

Carnegie Was a Shrewd Businessman

Part of Carnegie’s own success was to also be a good judge of people so that he could hire the right talent to grow his company, making Carnegie Steel worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He was known as a robber baron, like many of the industrialists of the time, such as Rockefeller, because he never helped increase the wages of his employees.

Nevertheless, Carnegie’s wealth never let him forget where he had come from. He was outspoken against the wealthy who lived ostentatious lifestyles and did not like the irresponsibility he had seen among the wealthy.

Carnegie firmly believed that education was key to success in life. The things we learn today give us great power. It became part of his commitment to providing free access to libraries for all.

Carnegie was not a very tall man. He was about 5’3”. His height never affected the giant things he would do. He made connections and deals in order to gain. He was shrewd and charming. But Carnegie was a man who earned his way up to the top and he had a big conscience to give back to society.

The Carnegie Corporation and Giving Back

Carnegie did not believe in just handing charity out. He wanted help people who wanted to help themselves. One of his famous quotes was, “In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves; to provide part of the means by which those who desire to improve may do so; to give those who desire to rise the aids by which they may rise; to assist, but rarely or never to do all. Neither the individual or the race is improved by alms-giving.”

In 1889, he wrote a book titled The Gospel of Wealth. In this book, he stated that people with riches, were “trustees” of their wealth and had a moral obligation to distribute it so that the common man would benefit.

In 1911, Andrew Carnegie created the Carnegie Corporation, as a philanthropic trust to benefit others through the money he had earned through his own success.

The Carnegie Corporation still exists today. This foundation stands as a legacy to the foundation Andrew Carnegie envisioned to benefit mankind for generations to come. He started the trust to “promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding". The Carnegie Corporation also honors Carnegie’s desire for peace throughout the world and to promote meaningful good and create “ladders on which aspiring can rise”, through grants, programs, and initiatives.

Carnegie’s philanthropic organization was started by Carnegie in 1911, with $135 million endowment, which would be about $2 billion in today’s dollars. At the time it was created, it was the largest trust of its kind that had ever been established. The Carnegie Corporation had since made nearly $1.5 billion in grants.

Long before he started his foundation, Carnegie made many lasting contributions including starting free public libraries to help everyone become educated, donating over $56 million dollars to build over 2,500 libraries in communities throughout the world.

Carnegie and His Philanthropic Philosophy

In 1891, Carnegie gave money for a building that would hold concerts. Carnegie Hall in New York City still stands today and is known as one of the most famous concert halls in the world.

The Carnegie Institute, created in 1895 for $20 million, was established to celebrate the arts, literature, music, and the sciences.

His philanthropic philosophy was to do “real and permanent good in the world”.

The success Carnegie achieved in his lifetime has made a positive influence on society to this day. His legacy stands as an inspiration to accomplish much and give back.

His hard work and commitment to helping mankind continue to exemplify that success is not just in the money we can make, or in the power we hold, but in the good deeds we can do that help others now and in the future.

© 2013 toknowinfo


Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on August 22, 2016:

Carnegie was a great thinker. Even now, we have much to learn from people like that.

Thanks for writing.


Jeremy Mcgilvrey from Sant Antonio Texas on August 12, 2016:

Very impressive post..... I have written a similar post and sharing with you all.

Agnes on February 05, 2013:

Mr. Carnegie was a really smart man, he knew what he was talking about - and so do you! Very interesting article.

Kathi Mirto from Fennville on January 31, 2013:

I watched the tv series last fall about "the men who built america" and it was fascinating. They were all cut from the same mold; ruthless and driven. Too bad the series didn't reveal the other side of Carnegie and some of the others. It's good to know this, restores my faith in mankind! :O)

toknowinfo (author) on January 29, 2013:

Hi Tom, Andrew Carnegie is certainly a man worth learning about.

toknowinfo (author) on January 29, 2013:

Hi Carol, Thanks so much or taking your time to read this Andrew Carnegie hub and for the up vote. I really appreciate you pinning this hub too.

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on January 29, 2013:

Great and interesting hub about a great man, didn't know much about this before thanks for helping me learn more through your great writing and hubs !

Vote up and more !!!

carol stanley from Arizona on January 28, 2013:

I think his ideas are still very valid in today's landscape. Great hub about a great man. Voting up and pinning.