Saturday, November 29, 2008

Andrew Carnegie..................a must read for you....................

Andrew Carnegie's grandfather had been the first to establish a small lending library in Carnegie's native Dunfermline, Scotland, at a time when there were no public libraries. As humble linen weavers, his family were far from well off, but the love and respect for book knowledge made a permanent mark on young Andrew. Later, when he was rich, Carnegie's massive endowment of libraries were the obvious choice for his largesse.

Though not very well educated himself, Carnegie appreciated the value of an open mind. Like Benjamin Franklin, he knew that 'leaders are readers' and that wealth was created from deeper knowledge and better thinking. When his first donated library came to be built, he was asked for his coat of arms to put above the entrance. He didn't have one. Instead, he asked for a plaque with portraying the sun and its rays and the words 'Let there be light'.

Born in 1835, Carnegie enjoyed his childhood in the bosom of an extended family. His father moved the family to the United States when he was in his early teens, but his accent and love of all things Scottish never left him.

In Pittsburgh he obtained employment as a telegraphist and as a railway clerk, and made his way up through the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. When the Civil War erupted, he was asked to take charge of US government railways and telegraphs, which he did with distinction. He was a republican and opposed slavery, and this was his great opportunity to serve the cause.

In addition to a huge capacity for work and a way with people, Carnegie chose his vocation well. America's railroad system was in rapid expansion, and he comments that ".a manufacturing concern such as ours could scarcely develop fast enough for the wants of the American people".

Upon selling the largest iron and steel works in the United States, he became the richest person in the world. He spent his retirement years at his beloved Skibo castle in Scotland, and died in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1919.

His will left over £70 million for the building of public libraries throughout the US and Britain, and provided large gifts to universities. The peace-loving Carnegie was saddened by the outbreak of WW1, and also endowed institutions that would promote peace and research the causes of war.

Carnegie's tips for work and life success

Invest in yourself

Carnegie disliked speculation in stocks. He thought it a much better investment to choose an industry, learn everything about it and invest in your own business: "I believe the true road to preeminent success in any line is to make yourself master in that line. I have no faith in the policy of scattering one's resources, and in my experience I have rarely if ever met a man who achieved prominence in money-making.who was interested in many concerns."

This is the power of focus, of sacrificing what you might gain by broadening in order to gain a smaller but well-defined market.

...but spread the risk

Because of his great success at so young an age, Carnegie developed the reputation in business of being fearless and reckless. This image, he says, could not have been further from the truth. In fact he never risked his own capital or that of his partners to any great degree: "When I did big things, some large corporation like the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was behind me and the responsible party."

You don't have to risk everything to think and act big. Carnegie's lesson is to get another party to carry the risk and use their reputation to assist your enterprise.

Be open and treating people well

Carnegie sought to create transparency in the management of all his plants. He kept them very well ordered and clean and welcomed government inspectors. He always sought good relations with labor, and generally gave employees what they wanted within reason. The famous Homestead plant strike in which several men died occurred while he was away in Scotland, and it is unlikely it would have happened if he had been there.

He made many of his staff rich. Plant manager Charles Schwab was the first person in American to be paid $1 million a year. In Napoleon Hill's Think And Grow Rich, Hill notes that this huge sum was not for Schwab's technical expertise, but for his superb ability to motivate. Like all great successes, Carnegie was a student of human nature and knew that the effective channeling of a workforce's energies was the mark of a true leader. He noted: "I did not understand steam machinery, but I tried to understand that much more complicated mechanism - man."

Be master of your mood

"A sunny disposition is worth more than fortune. Young people should know that it can be cultivated; that the mind like the body can be moved from the shade into sunshine."

Read these two lines again. Carnegie's simple statement encapsulates hundreds of self-help and success books.

Final word

In its modest tone, the book reminds you of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, and like Franklin's amazes in the story of what a person from very average beginnings can achieve in one lifetime. The reader almost tires of how Carnegie details the people who helped him and became his mentors, and he speaks with great fondness of his childhood.

Carnegie's massive endowment of libraries was one of history's great acts, and his name is now more closely identified with the money he gave away rather than that which he made. His story suggests that the amassing of wealth by a single individual, if that person has high motives, is one of the best ways to change the world for the better.
Harpreet Singh

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