As the year comes to a close, we reflect on business success. At the Guru 42 Universe we study information technology success and share many lessons learned over the years. At GeekHistory we study the most successful geeks and explore when visions became reality.
We take a moment to remember one of the world's greatest overachievers of the industrial age, Andrew Carnegie. The name Andrew Carnegie is associated with some of the most successful businesses of the industrial age. He was an amazing and interesting man in many ways.
Overachiever Andrew Carnegie
Born in Dunfermline, Scotland, Carnegie grew up in Pittsburgh. He became a telegraph messenger boy in the Pittsburgh Office of the Ohio Telegraph Company in 1850. As a young man he worked for the the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Carnegie recognized that railroads were becoming big businesses in America and learned all he could about them. Carnegie established businesses that supplied rails and bridges to the railroad.
After the Civil War, Carnegie left the railroad and moved on to the next big thing, the steel industry. The company he started as Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company would go on to become The United States Steel Corporation under the ownership of J.P. Morgan. Andrew Carnegie started out as an immigrant to the United States, and went on to become one of the wealthiest Americans ever. Carnegie's net worth would be over $300 billion adjusted to modern dollars.
Evil capitalist or American hero?
Many people see the super rich as evil capitalists. During his days in business Andrew Carnegie was considered one of the robber barons. The term uses the words robber, meaning criminal, and baron, meaning aristocrat, to imply that the businessmen used unscrupulous methods to get rich. Compared to other American businessmen during the Gilded Age in United States history, from the 1870s to about 1900, you can make the case that Carnegie was not a particularly ruthless man.
Carnegie's greatest accomplishments would be what he did with his wealth. In 1889, Carnegie wrote "The Gospel of Wealth", an article describing the responsibility of philanthropy by the wealthy. Carnegie's wealth was used to create over 3000 libraries throughout the United States, Britain, Canada, including his home town in Scotland.
Having grown up in Western Pennsylvania, I saw the name Carnegie often in his adopted home town of Pittsburgh. In 1900, Carnegie gave $2 million to start the Carnegie Institute of Technology at Pittsburgh, now known as Carnegie Mellon University. He also funded the Carnegie Institute which operates the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.
I recently saw a CBS News Sunday Morning segment cover the Carnegie Hero Fund. There are some pretty amazing stories, like the 19-year-old mother of two in Auburn, Illinois, who saved a 75-year-old man who had gotten his wheel chair stuck on the train tracks. Check it out, Carnegie Heroes: A definition of selfless humanity. Established in Pittsburgh, in 1904 with a trust fund of $5 million by Carnegie, the award recognizes persons who perform extraordinary acts of heroism.
What is the a formula to define success?
The overachievers in the world were obsessed with their vision of success, and stopped at nothing to achieve it. It is often said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Many successful people operated on that fine line.
I remember when "Think and Grow Rich" was also a "must read" book for those studying successful individuals. Think and Grow Rich, written in 1937 by Napoleon Hill, was based on an earlier book, The Law of Success written in 1925. The books were based upon interviews of over 100 American millionaires across nearly 20 years. According to Hill, the "Think and Grow Rich" series was a challenge made to him by Andrew Carnegie to come up with a formula to define success.
There have been many variations of "Think and Grow Rich" over the years, but the original version by Napoleon Hill set the standard for trying to understand the mindset of highly successful people. If you read it today, many of Hill's remarks are pretty sexist by today's standards, but keep in mind, it was written in the 1920s and 1930s.
How do you focus your vision of success, and how do you keep the obsession of success from consuming you? The answer to that question is the difference between success and failure.
"People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents." - Andrew Carnegie
Photo: Overachiever Andrew Carnegie
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