He Died In 1919. What Does That Have To Do With Today?

Andrew Carnegie. Stated to be one of the richest man in the world in 1901 when he sold his steel business to United States Steel Corporation. He died in 1919. If you aren't familiar with him, here is a link to Wikipedia: Andrew Carnegie.

I've read a few books about him including his autobiography. It has been some years since I have read it, yet much of what I read stays with me. It is coming to the surface again with the current economic events. One might ask, "What does he have to do with today? This is 2008 and that was almost 90 years ago. Times were different then."

Well, here are some of the things I learned that stay fresh with me today.

  • Andrew got his first job at 13 years old in 1848, by 1851, he was on a plan of growing in business and knowledge. He was a reader. (Knowledge has an accumulating factor! The more you add to it, the more is there to borrow from when needed today)
  • He had a vision of his life's work. He didn't see each thing clearly, but he had an overall goal: His goal was to become wealthy and then spend the rest of his life giving it away. This is exactly what he did. (Good to have a strong vision of where you want to get to, even though and perhaps especially if you cannot now see the road to it)
  • He invested in many different enterprises, seeing the value of accumulating assets in the form of stock in other people's companies, stock in his own companies, assets that in combination with other's become more powerful. (There are opportunities all around us all the time. Invest in the opportunities, including your own business)
  • Because of his investments, he was able to take advantage of economic downturns to expand his plants, install new equipment, test new theories, work out details. When the economy became for fruitful, his company was so far out front, no one could catch him. (What can I do now to improve my operations so that when things improve, I will be further ahead?)
  • He surrounded himself with talented people. He always had business partners. He brought people in and encouraged them to become owners. Charles M Schwab was one of them and he was the one who ended up brokering the deal to buy Andrew Carnegie out with Pierpont Morgan. (Two or twenty heads are better than one in so many ways!)
  • He had a keen eye for detail. He wanted to know. He was always looking to make a thing work better, more smoothly, more profitably, more effectively. (What can I do today in my business that will make us more effective? Good questions for inquisitive minds)
  • He had a huge heart to share. Carnegie Libraries. He commissioned Napoleon Hill to interview 500 of the most successful people leading to one of the greatest, most popular books ever written, Think and Grow Rich. This just names a very few. He became a man of huge influence. (It's not what you achieve, it is what you become by what you achieve. Giving is more powerful and fulfilling than getting)
  • He had a higher purpose. He had lots of reasons to succeed. He was focused. His focus was not on himself. it was on the future and on others. (There is something so powerful about looking at the horizon when you are walking. When you look at the cracks in the sidewalk, you forget where you are going. What can I do for my customer today? What can I do for my employees today? How can I help them?)

This is just a few recollections from reading the Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie. I think there are quite a number of things to learn today from the man who died in 1919--things that apply to the problems and situations we face in 2008. A valuable read.

See also the rare book about Charles M Schwab, Steel Titan. His life turned out much different and there are lessons there as well.

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